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Childcare vouchers deadline extended

By Rachel Lawler
The deadline for joining the childcare vouchers scheme has been extended by six months. The scheme was due to close to new applicants on 6 April but is now expected to remain open until sometime in October 2018.
Education secretary Damian Hinds announced the change yesterday during a debate in the House of Commons.
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."
Earlier this year, a petition asking the government to keep the childcare vouchers scheme open alongside tax-free childcare attracted more than 100,000 signatures.
Childcare vouchers

Childcare vouchers are offered to some parents through their employer. They allow parents to purchase childcare vouchers using their pre-tax salary up to a maximum of £243 per parent each month.
Tax-free childcare

Last year, the government launched tax-free childcare, which offers working parents a 20% top-up to help pay for childcare costs. Parents must transfer funds into a childcare account, which will then be topped up with an additional 20% from the government. The scheme can be used to pay for up to £10,000 worth of childcare each year, giving parents a maximum of £2,000 in top-ups.
Tax-free childcare is available through the government's Childcare Service website, which has struggled with problems since its launch last year. The number of families opting to use the scheme has been much lower than initially anticipated.
Alliance response

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: "Given the significant difficulties parents trying to access tax-free childcare online continue to face, delaying the closure of childcare voucher schemes 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.”