The concern is that many parents in Ipswich and across the country will lose out because of the Government’s new system of tax-free childcare. I share these concerns.
The Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA) estimates that only 7% of the parents expected to sign up to tax-free childcare by April 2018 will have done so, and in fact the Government has acknowledged that applications for tax-free childcare accounts have been lower than expected. The CPVA notes that the plans to close access to childcare vouchers risk leaving hundreds of thousands of parents with no childcare support at all.
I strongly support investment in childcare and at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to overhaul the existing childcare system. Currently subsidies are given directly to parents who often find it hard to access good local provision. I believe the government should directly fund high-quality childcare places for those who need them most in the places where they are needed. Labour are also pledged to phase in subsidised additional provision on top of free-hour entitlements, to ensure everyone has access to affordable childcare, no matter what their working hours might be. The manifesto also committed us to deliver 30 free hours to all two-year-olds, to move towards making some childcare available for one-year-olds, and to extending maternity pay to 12 months.
I am aware that over 112,000 people have signed the parliamentary petition to keep childcare vouchers open beyond 2018 alongside tax-free childcare. I believe that the Government should recognise the contribution made by ordinary working families to the economy, society and Government finances by not removing this crucial support unless and until they are prepared to properly fund a genuinely effective alternative.
As you know, this petition is due to be debated in Westminster Hall on 15 January 2018. I am delighted that Parliament has the opportunity to debate this issue, but I am afraid that I will not myself be available at that time as I will be attending a select committee meeting. However, I can assure you that I will continue to fully support the increasing calls for a comprehensive and fully-funded approach to childcare. I will ask written questions in order to highlight the injustice of closing the voucher scheme.