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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He makes the point well. We recognise that, completely.

We want the eligibility conditions to be straightforward. For example, a child will be considered disabled for the purposes of this scheme if disability living allowance or a personal independence payment is paid for the child, or they are certified blind. We are looking into the package of measures and the wider support, outside tax-free child care.

Amendment 17 would extend the scheme to parents of disabled children under the age of 19. I recognise why comments have been made and the genesis of the amendment. In the evidence sessions, it was suggested that such a measure would bring the age limit parallel to that in universal credit. However, that is not so. The child care element of universal credit is available to parents of disabled children under 17. This is already in line with existing schemes, particularly employment-supported child care and the tax credits scheme. It is right that we make the new scheme consistent with the current framework.

Unsurprisingly, increasing the age up to which a child will be entitled to support across the schemes would carry significant Exchequer costs, and that will have an impact on the welfare cap and on the wider universal credit system. The Government are clear that they support disabled children and disabled people more widely. As we have said previously, universal credit provides more generous support for disabled adults and disabled children than it does for people in similar circumstances who are not disabled.

As I have set out, under the new scheme, parents of disabled children under 17 will continue to be eligible for support, in recognition of the fact that child care costs for this group can remain high in later years. This will provide support for qualifying child care, which includes care regulated by the Care Quality Commission—we have discussed that—and that will allow parents to access and use domiciliary care. Again, I highlight my commitment to look at increasing the maximum amount for the parents of disabled children. As I confirmed on Tuesday, working parents will be able to use the scheme to pay for respite care, where this enables them to work.

I am conscious of the additional child care costs that families might have to meet. I will therefore explore the possibility of increasing the maximum amount that they can pay into their child care account, which in turn will attract a top-up payment from the Government. I will engage—I am committed to doing so—with all interested parent groups to establish how this might best be done. I will take the time to get this right. Again, it is important that we ensure that any necessary changes to the regulations are made before the scheme goes live.

We designed the scheme to meet the needs of parents of disabled children. We worked with Scope, for example, which has been encouraged, and has been positive, in terms of working with us. It recognises the needs we have identified, and has welcomed our measures to enable disabled children to benefit from tax-free child care. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Stockton North to beg leave to withdraw amendment 17.