It was set up by John Woodward, the managing director of Busy Bees Benefits, as part of the 'Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap' campaign, which aims to raise the weekly allowance for working parents of childcare vouchers from £55 to £75.
Parents exchange part of their salary - currently up to £55 a week - for childcare vouchers, which are not taxed and exempt from National Insurance. The current rate of £55 has not risen since 2006.
Mr Woodward said, ‘It is important that childcare providers play their part in helping parents to save money by supporting the "Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap" campaign and telling parents that they should ask their employer about the childcare voucher scheme. The scheme provides essential financial support for many working parents who want to access quality care for their children. Our recent survey showed that one in three parents who responded were influenced in their decision to return to work by the provision of childcare vouchers.
'We believe that our campaign has highlighted the strength of feelings parents have towards improving the current arrangements for Childcare Vouchers, especially from those parents who are struggling. We are aware that funding for parents is being debated and hope that the current Childcare Voucher system will be a fundamental part of future arrangements.’
In a recent Busy Bees Benefits customer survey, 29 per cent of childcare providers who responded said that did not know if they supported the campaign. Sixty-five per cent of them had not signed the e-petition.
After the e-petition received more than 10,000 signatures the Treasury released a response. It said, ‘We realise that the cost of childcare is one of the most important considerations for working parents. Government spending in this area is high; we support families with up to 70 per cent childcare costs. Through the Working Tax Credit, as well as providing 15 hours a week of free early learning for all three-and-four-year olds and all disadvantaged two-year-olds. This is in addition to childcare vouchers.
‘Unfortunately increasing the childcare cap will result in a shortfall of revenue and mean either further reductions in spending or raising revenue elsewhere, for example through increasing overall tax limits to account for the loss. In a world with limited resources, the government has to prioritise support for childcare costs on those who need it the most, but policy in this area remains under review.’
If the e-petition passes the 100,000 signature mark, it will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee. It will remain open for signatures until 21 March 2013.
- For more information about the campaign visit http://www.busybeesbenefits.com/misc/petition.php.