Clause 14 - Qualifying child

Part of Childcare Payments Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 23 October 2014.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Exchequer Secretary 11:30, 23 October 2014

Good morning, Mr Sheridan. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Stockton North and for North West Durham for their contributions. This is an important clause, and it is important to put the context of disabled children’s child care needs at the forefront of what we are trying to do in the Bill. I particularly pay tribute to the hon. Member for North West Durham for her report, which I have read. The inquiry and the comments in it—the very raw views and experiences that were highlighted—are a salutary reminder to all of us not only in this Committee, but in Parliament, of how disabled children’s needs have historically been overlooked, particularly when it comes to the care component and the relative costs involved.

Having listened to the debate, I am obviously hugely sympathetic, and I understand the points both hon. Members have made. It is absolutely right that the parents of disabled children are wholly supported in the right way if they choose to work. We have been careful to make sure that that is reflected in the way the scheme is designed.

Clause 14 allows the Government to make regulations to define a qualifying child for the purposes of the scheme. We intend to make regulations to focus support primarily on children under the age of 12, for whom child care costs are at their highest. Eligibility will end in the first week of the September following the child’s 11th birthday. I want to assure the hon. Member for Stockton North that we are aligning the scheme with the school year—a point that he mentioned.

We also recognise, as I have stated already and as hon. Members highlighted, that child care costs are very high for parents of disabled children who are in their later childhood years. Therefore, parents of such children will continue to be eligible for support until the September following the child’s 16th birthday. We want the eligibility conditions to be straightforward for parents.