Since April 2017 the Government has launched a new system called Tax Free Childcare offering a new form of childcare vouchers and also increased free childcare hours. With so many questions from our clients about the new system, we have decided to look at them in more detail and provide you with a list of the facts.
Tax-free Childcare is the new online service from the Government to help parents with funding towards the cost of childcare. Company Childcare Vouchers will become known as “Employer Supported Childcare” and Tax-Free Childcare will eventually replace the childcare voucher scheme. The way it works is that the government will pay £2 into the account for every £8 paid by the parent, into the account. This is equal to a maximum of £2,000 every year. Parents will then be able to pay their childcare provider (Nursery, Childminder or Nanny) directly from this account. The childcare provider must also be set up on the system and will need to be Ofsted registered.
Are you eligible for new government scheme?
• Both parents working
• Both earn over £120 per week
• Self Employed
• Either Parent earns over £100,000 per annum
• Two-parent households when only one parent works
Should I remain in my company childcare voucher scheme?
If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria above and your Company offers childcare vouchers then definitely yes!
If you are already signed up to a company scheme then probably yes! Employer run schemes have the benefit of being very simple to join and administer as an employee with excellent support systems either through the company direct or the childcare voucher provider and thus many may favour this system unless there are much greater financial benefits in changing. Parents should use the online calculators to work out which scheme is financially better for them. It is understood that those with more children and high childcare costs are likely to see more financial benefits with the new scheme, providing they meet the eligibility criteria.
If you are already supported by your employer supported childcare voucher scheme, you will not be able to use both options at the same time and must decide which is best for you. Corporate Childcare voucher schemes will be open to new entrants only until October 2018 and will remain running until the Company decides to stop offering such a benefit.
15 hours Free Childcare
All children, in England, aged 3 and 4 are entitled to 15 hours free childcare. This is available at participating nurseries, pre-schools, childminders and sure start centres and from 1 January , 1 April or 1 September following your child’s 3rd birthday. Parents are asked to sign a form to confirm that you are not getting 15 hours from somewhere else but the it is the childcare provider that needs to register with the local council to claim the money (as it is paid directly to them from the local council). Your nursery or childcare provider will inform you as to when you can take these 15 hours and they are only applicable for 38 weeks a year.
30 hours Free Childcare
Since September 2017 changes to the free childcare entitlement for 3-4 year olds have come into force. All children aged 3-4 years are entitled to 15 hours’ free childcare regardless of parents situation. However your child is now entitled to an additional 15 hours free if you meet the above criteria (hence they name ’30 hours free’ childcare).
Will my child be entitled to the additional 15 hours?
Again both parents must be working – or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family. Each parent has to earn, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage (over £120 per week). Each parent must have an annual income of less than £100,000; and must live in England.
Does free really mean free?
As with the 15 hours, the 30 hours free is only for 38 weeks a year (roughly in line with school terms) and therefore if you use a nursery offering 50 week cover you will receive less than 30 hours free a week and you will receive an invoice for the extra hours you receive. In addition nurseries can charge for “optional extras” such as food or extra-curricular activities. They can also set restrictions as to when the hours can be used which might not fit with a parent’s requirements.
Will Nurseries offer 30 hours free?
Most will offer increased hours but there may be limitations. Within the nursery industry there has been a lot of concern that the new scheme will provide them with financial issues as the money they receive from the government does not cover their costs. Nurseries will not be able to charge extra fees for the 30 hours but as explained above you may find that they start charging for extras, such as food, or structure their hours in a way that you are still liable to pay for certain attendance.
How do I apply for the additional hours?
You will need to register via the Childcare Support Government Website. It is essential to do this prior to the term that you are entitled to the benefit. For example if your child turns 3 in November, you will be entitled to the additional hours from 1 January, therefore you must apply prior to 31 December. Providing you meet the criteria and are entitled to the benefit you will then be sent an email with an account number. This number has to be given to your childcare provider and they do the rest. Every three months you will be sent a reminder to log on again and re-confirm that you still meet the criteria.
It is important to fully understand the financial implications of such changes, discuss with your nursery whether they are able to offer the increased hours and whether there are any new charges that will be due, and check whether you would be eligible. Many parents will be better off under the current system but new Tax Free childcare WILL provide savings for some parents. Therefore we encourage you to use the government calculator to help calculate what you are entitled to based on your personal information.
Childcare Choices – what is available