Clause 13 - Neither the person nor his or her partner may be receiving other childcare support

Childcare Payments Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 21st October 2014.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Clause 13 sets out the eighth condition for eligibility, stipulating that to qualify, a person, and their partner if applicable, must not be receiving other types of child care support. The explanatory note gives the example of the child care grant as one such other type of child care support that parents will not be able to receive if they want to take up top-up payments. The child care grant supports parents in full-time education courses with up to 85% off their child care costs. However, the explanatory notes state that support schemes in which child care support goes directly to the child care provider will not render parents ineligible for top-up payments. Free early years provision is one such example.

The explanatory notes suggest that no other form of Government child care support can currently be claimed by parents when they make their declaration of eligibility, and the clause makes a similar reference. Given that there is some complexity involved, it would be helpful if the Minister could set out exactly what forms of Government child care support will render parents ineligible as a result of the clause. It would be helpful to Committee members to be fully aware of what support the clause excludes, and it would be certainly be helpful to parents. I hope that she can clarify whether a list will be issued, for example, to ensure that there is clear guidance to parents.

On a more general note, what kind of guidance, whether written or electronic, does the Minister plan to provide so that parents know exactly what is and is not allowed and do not unintentionally fall foul of the eligibility criteria for the scheme? The introduction of top-up payments, although we all welcome the additional funding and the expansion of support to a wider variety of working parents, adds complexity in its interaction with other available Government-supported schemes.  We have discussed that at great length, but it would be helpful to have clarity about other forms of Government support. Some reassurance from the Minister in that respect would be helpful.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Exchequer Secretary

Clause 13 sets out the final eligibility condition, which is that the person and their partner, if they have one, must not be receiving certain other forms of Government child care support on the date when they make a declaration of eligibility. I reassure Committee members that parents will remain eligible for support under the scheme if they access a free child care place as part of their 15 hours a week provision of funded early education for three and four-year-olds, and for two-year-olds from lower-income households. Eligible parents will be able to use the scheme to help pay for any child care that they need in addition to their free entitlement.

It is only right that when a person or their partner receives financial help with the costs of child care from another Government provision or scheme, such as the child care grant, they should not be entitled to further support. That is just one example. There are numerous other schemes run by the Department of Health and  the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, such as the bursary child care allowance. It is fair to say that the guidance that we have discussed in previous clauses is about clarification and information. It is not at all about parents falling foul; it is about the due diligence required when it comes to the eligibility criteria.

The onus is, of course, on the Government to ensure that we are communicating effectively and providing the right guidance and information to highlight what schemes would come under the “other child care support” provision. I hope that Committee members will agree that the clause is fair and necessary, and that it will allow parents to access the child care support that best suits their circumstances. As I have said, it is part of the information side of the Bill and concerns what communications we send out to parents. I therefore commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 13 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.— (Gavin Barwell.)

Adjourned till Thursday 23 October at half-past Eleven o’clock.