In recognition of the fact that childcare is considerably more expensive for disabled children than for able-bodied children, ministers have decided to change legislation to raise the maximum amount that parents of disabled children can pay into their childcare accounts.
The change will mean that parents can pay £16,000 into a special childcare account each year (up from £8,000). They can also receive top up payments of up to £4,000 per year from the government.
Amanda Batten, chief executive at Contact a Family, said: ‘This will be very welcome news for many families with disabled children who face much higher than average childcare costs. We know there is a hidden and talented workforce out there – the mothers of disabled children who need and want to work. Yet only 16% of these mothers work compared to 60% of other mothers.
However, some criticism has been directed at the scheme, with the Pre-school Learning Alliance concerned that the change would not help families that would need the most help with childcare costs.
The Pre-school Learning Alliance has also highlighted that only those parents of disabled children that can afford to pay more than the previous limit of £8,000 per year into their childcare accounts will receive any extra financial support from Government.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: ‘The tax-free childcare scheme is already regressive in nature, as the more a family can afford to pay into their childcare account, the more financial support they receive from Government.
‘We would argue, therefore, that it would have been far more practical for the government to increase the proportional rate of top-up for parents of disabled childcare above the current rate of 20%. A change of this kind would have ensured that all eligible families benefitted from additional financial support, not just those that can afford to spend large amounts on childcare.’
From autumn this year, the government will be introducing a tax-free childcare scheme which will be available to nearly 2 million households. For every 80p that working parents pay towards childcare, the government will pay 20p (up to £2,000 per year per child). The hope is that the scheme will enable more parents to go out to work.