Childcare scheme closure delayed

Emma Little-Pengelly.''Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Emma Little-Pengelly.''Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A voucher scheme for working parents to help pay for childcare will stay open after the intervention of the DUP in Westminster.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said, during a debate at the House of Commons, that the planned closure of the employer-backed Childcare Voucher Scheme will be delayed for at least six months.

The scheme, which offers parents vouchers worth up to £55 per week to help pay for childcare, had been due to close at the beginning of next month.

DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly has welcomed the government’s decision to delay the closure.

Speaking from Westminster Mrs Little-Pengelly said: “Whilst this Scheme has been far from perfect and flaws have been identified, it has nonetheless been beneficial for those working parents availing of child care. Each parent could use up to £55 per week from their pre-tax salary and allocate it to pay for childcare.”

She continued: “Concerns had been raised by Employers for Childcare as well as users of the Childcare Voucher Scheme about the proposed April 2018 closure. Whilst the Scheme would continue for existing recipients, analysis from Employers for Childcare indicated some families would be better off under the existing Childcare Voucher Scheme rather than the new Tax-free Childcare scheme.”

The South Belfast MP added: “The DUP is delighted that the Government has agreed with our proposal to delay the Scheme’s closure for a period of at least 6 months. This period will be used to address concerns raised about the Scheme and to look at new provisions to address childcare accessibility and affordability in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom.”