The deadline for new joiners to sign up to the childcare voucher scheme has been extended by six months. It was due to close on 5th April but will now remain open until October.

The announcement was made yesterday during a debate in the House of Commons.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “I have heard the concerns that have been raised about this and the timing, and I can confirm that we will be able to keep the voucher scheme open for a further six months to new entrants.”

The change follows a petition which requested the Government to keep the scheme open, attracting more than 100,000 signatures.

The childcare voucher scheme, offered by some but not all employers, allows parents to purchase childcare vouchers through salary sacrifice.

Parents must choose whether to join the childcare vouchers scheme or Tax-Free Childcare – they are not allowed to use both. The Tax-Free Childcare scheme was introduced last April, where the Government contributes £2 for every £8 that parents pay into their Childcare Choices account.

Chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil Leitch, said: “Given the significant difficulties parents trying to access tax-free childcare online continue to face, delaying the closure of childcare voucher scheme to new entrants is clearly a sensible decision by government.

“With take-up of tax-free childcare still much lower than originally expected and valid concerns continuing to be raised about the level of support the scheme offers to lower-income families, we would suggest that government uses this time to reflect on the effectiveness of the tax-free childcare policy and whether the scheme alone is the best way to provide adequate support to all families who need it.”

Parents can find out more about the best way to pay for their childcare by visiting www.childcarechoices.gov.uk

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