Coronavirus: Eligibility extended for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare for the second time

Catherine Gaunt
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Government has extended the eligibility for 30-hour childcare and Tax-Free Childcare to enable working parents to continue to use the schemes, even if the number of hours they work drops during the pandemic.

The Government has confirmed that from 1 November, eligible working parents who receive support through the Government’s new Job Support Scheme (JSS) and extended Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will continue to receive their childcare entitlements, including the 30 hours offer and Tax-Free Childcare, even if their income levels fall below the threshold temporarily while on these schemes.

The minimum income threshold for 30 hours free childcare and Tax-Free Childcare is usually equal to 16 hours per week at the national minimum wage. 

It is the second time that the Government has extended eligibility to families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In May, the Government announced that those who were previously eligible, but whose income temporarily dropped as a direct result of the pandemic, would continue to be able to access the 30 hours or Tax-Free Childcare.

Meanwhile, new research commissioned by the DfE, shows that 94 per cent of parents surveyed in September whose child used formal childcare prior to Covid-19 were either using formal childcare or were intending to send their child back to formal childcare, if available, by January.

According to the survey of 1,000 parents of children aged from birth to four, 88 per cent were using formal childcare; 2 per cent said they would ‘use formal childcare now if available’,  1 per cent expected to use formal childcare again before Christmas, and 2 per cent expected to be using formal childcare from January. 

The research was carried out by Ipsos MORI during June, August, and September, and asked families whether they intended to send their child back to their early years setting.

Among children who used formal childcare before Covid-19, and who were using formal childcare in September, the majority (71 per cent) were at the same provider as before, and half (50 per cent) were using the same number of hours of formal childcare as before.

Just over a third (35 per cent) were using more hours of formal childcare, and one in eight (13 per cent) were using fewer hours.

The latest official figures from the Department for Education show that an estimated 770,000 children are currently attending early years settings, which, according to the DfE is approximately 87 per cent of the usual daily level for the Autumn term.

Children and families minister Vicky Ford said, ‘This Government is increasing the safety net available to families, protecting working parents and our dedicated early years sector. This has been our constant priority, which is why I am so pleased to see attendance rates rising, as more parents return to work and take up the formal childcare arrangements they used before Covid-19 struck.

‘It’s testament to the hard work of early years professionals that these numbers are returning to what we would have seen before the pandemic.

We know challenges remain for many families, which is why we continue to protect parents’ eligibility for our free childcare offers so they retain this vital support.’

The Job Support Scheme and extension to Self-Employed Income Support Scheme have been launched to replace the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which ends on 31 October.

Karl Khan, director general HMRC customer service said, ‘HMRC remains ready to help all customers as part of the government’s response to the pandemic, including those who benefit from Tax-Free Childcare.

‘We want everyone to get the money they are entitled to, and there’s a range of support available to help families with childcare costs. We’d encourage parents to check the Childcare Choices website to see which offers will work best for them.’

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