Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Childcare for 80,000 more families

Eighty thousand more low-income families are to be eligible for help with childcare costs

An additional 80,000 low income families are to be eligible for help with meeting the costs of childcare under plans announced by the Government.

Rules limiting childcare support to parents working a minimum of 16 hours a week are to be scrapped from 2013 when the new universal credit is introduced.

Ministers said the payments - costing £300 million-a-year - should make it easier for parents from an estimated 80,000 households find work.

However Labour warned the move would do nothing to help thousands of families struggling to make ends meet as a result of the cuts to childcare support in last year's comprehensive spending review.

The announcement was made jointly by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

It comes at a time when David Cameron and the Conservative half of the coalition have been under fire over their attitudes towards women.

Mr Duncan Smith said that the change would help parents to work the hours that suit their families.

"We are determined to help more parents take their first steps into work, but under the current minimum hours rule parents are trapped in state dependency without the childcare support they badly need - providing yet another barrier to work," he said.

Mr Clegg said: "We all know how difficult it is sometimes to juggle family and work but this is really good news, especially for lone parents and mums up and down the country. I want to ensure that this coalition Government is there for families of all shapes and sizes and help them with the difficult daily juggling act between family and work."

However shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said that parents are already being forced out of work as a result of the Government's decision to cut childcare support from 80% to 70%. "This announcement is frankly smoke and mirrors. It won't mean a penny more help for parents already struggling on childcare tax credits," he said.

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