Clause 2 - Qualifying childcare

Part of Childcare Payments Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 21 Hydref 2014.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Ceidwadwyr, Basingstoke 10:30, 21 Hydref 2014

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sheridan, and to have the opportunity to welcome this Government Bill, particularly because it will make tax-free child care available to almost 2 million families and to 200,000 self-employed people for the first time. That is particularly welcomed by working women in my constituency; as I am sure Members know, record numbers of women are now in work in this country.

I want to make a short contribution to the clause stand part debate to build on what the hon. Member for Stockton North talked about: what constitutes qualifying child care, as set out in clause 2. It is clear that the Bill is about supporting working families and those who are moving into work, and that is clarified in clause 9, which says that a person or their partner will be eligible under the Bill if they are in qualified work or moving into qualified work. However, there is merit in considering what is required, as subsection (2) says,

“to enable the person to work”.

Families with disabled children face particular difficulties; the hon. Gentleman set out a number of examples.

In Basingstoke we are privileged to have the KIDS nursery, which Hampshire county council helped establish. It is there particularly to support disabled children. Parents at that local nursery have explained to me clearly the distinct problems that parents of disabled children face when trying to get into employment. Short breaks and respite, for example, which may not occur when an individual is in employment, enable individuals to recuperate and have the energy to continue to be a working, contributing member of our community.

I urge the Minister to go a little bit further, if she is able, and provide details about the Government’s recognition that parents of disabled children—families—may require additional child care support. I know that the Government understand that parents of disabled children face higher child care costs, and that that might restrict their ability to get into employment. Evidence from the Family and  Childcare Trust showed that the way the system works at the moment may be restricting the supply of child care for disabled children.

It is not necessarily advantageous for such detail to be included in the Bill. There is far more flexibility to do that in regulations, and I could accept the Minister’s saying that. However, I hope that she takes this opportunity to reassure Committee members that these differences and difficult circumstances faced by many families with disabled children have been fully recognised by the Government, and that that recognition will be acted on, either in the Bill or through regulations that will support it.