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Childcare vouchers

5 replies

winnie1 · 13/05/2003 12:57

Hi everyone. Could someone please explain the concept of childcare vouchers. Someone told me recently that I can get them once my toddler hits three. But who is entitled to them? How much childcare do they cover? And how does one go about applying for them? At the moment he is with a childminder but by Christmas he will be in a nursery. I am very confused... Thanks in advance

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Lil · 13/05/2003 13:41

Winnie, careful with the terms here, its quite confusing. Childcare vouchers are a system set up by certain companies (like busy bees) whereby they take a fee for saving you and your employer your NI contributions on your childcare. You don't need the vouchers, you can set this up yourself - but most people can't be bothered or more commonly can't understand it (thanks Gordon Brown)and use external agencies.

But back to your request. I think you are talking about the nursery allowance we ALL get when our child is between 3 and 4. When you start claiming them depends on where you live. i.e. the county council decides how generous they are going to be (and Surrey you should be ashamed - we haveto wait until a term before our children turn 4!!!!). The money is paid direct to a registered nursery, and is about £7 a morning session. Its not paid to childminders, its a nursery scheme onlly, so you would get it after xmaS, depending on the exact age of your son.

Does that make sense?


Marina · 13/05/2003 13:43

Winnie, I think the term "childcare voucher" is no longer that helpful although it is still in general use. The practice of physically handing over vouchers (which you had to apply for) to help pay for childcare above the age of three was phased out long before we qualified.
How it works now in my borough is that provided your child is registered with an approved nursery provider, the nursery itself claims whatever your entitlement is off the funder and then deducts it from your weekly/monthly bill, as soon as your child turns three. You don't have to actively claim it in my experience.
For reasons which I don't understand, how much "free" care you get seems to depend on where you live. Some local authorities, like mine, very generously stump up for all 3-4 year olds to get FIVE free half day sessions per week. That is the maximum available under the scheme.
Others, I know from talking to Mumsnetters elsewhere in London, are less generous and don't even guarantee provision for all children. As I thought this was a nationwide Early Years for all children initiative I'm not sure how they get away with this.
Hopefully your council will be one of the more generous ones, but actually you need to talk to either your intended nursery manager or your council's Early Years Department to find out your local entitlement. HTH.


GillW · 13/05/2003 13:47

Winnie - there isn't a fixed answer to this, as the policy varies around the country from county to county. In some places you'll get them from the term your child turns three, in other places it's from the term they turn 4, and all variations in between. If you're considered a priority - in a deprived area, or claiming benefits, etc, you may get them early even if you are in a council area which generally doesn't pay until late! Best bet is to call your local county council and ask to speak to the early years department, you should be able to get the contact details from Childcarelink .

Strictly speaking what you get isn't vouchers, but funding from the council which is usually paid directly to the nursery, but may exceptionally be paid to you to recompense you if you've paid upfront. The funding covers 5 x 2.5 hours of preschool/nursery education (not childcare as such).

By the way if you search this site for discussions on "childcare vouchers" you'll find some details on a different scheme, which IS voucher based, where you can save some of the costs of childcare by getting your employer to "pay" you in childcare vouchers instead of cash.


GillW · 13/05/2003 13:50

Lil - think yourself lucky, here it doesn't cut in until the term of their 4th birthday. One mile down the road, in the neighbouring authority, they get it from the term of their third birthday - so my friend's dd who is a week young than my DS will get it 17 months earlier!


winnie1 · 13/05/2003 16:53

Thanks guys for your help. As is obvious I was very confused but now, thanks to you, I am not going to appear quite so dim when I broach the subject. It does seem bizarre, even scandalous, that the money involved or the time of starting is not uniform across the country. GillW the link was really useful. Thanks. Once again Mumsnet proves a lifeline

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