Last day for Comments on Tax Free Childcare

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Today is the last day for Comments on the proposed Tax free childcare

Parents have one day left to submit their comments on the Government’s Tax Free Childcare consultation. The online survey requires parents to submit their views on the proposed changes announced at the Budget 2013 to introduce a tax free childcare scheme for working families. Under the consultation, the Government has proposed a scheme to provide 20 per cent of childcare costs for each child, up to a limit of £1,200 for families where all parents are working. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: “This government is on the side of people who want to work hard and get on in life. Tax-Free Childcare will help working parents by giving them more choice and better access to the quality, affordable childcare that they need. “We want to make sure that the new scheme works well, and meets the needs of working families which is why we are seeking the views of parents and other interested parties.” Already completed by 35,000 people, the online survey has been designed with parents in mind so that the consultation can be accessible to all without needing to read the 68 page consultation. Mr Osborne continued: “I am delighted that so many parents have taken the opportunity to respond to the consultation already, and would urge others to have their say and help shape the policy before the questionnaire closes.” The proposed support, offering £1,200 per child can be compared to the existing scheme where the maximum support of £933 tax relief per employed parent is accessible. Tax Free Childcare is anticipated to replace Employer-Supported Childcare over time and provide support to more families who would previously not have access to financial help. When the consultation was first announced, some professionals from the care sector reported their disappointment that the proposal did not include families with one stay at home parent. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said they were: “disappointed that the tax breaks are dependent on both parents working and that this does nothing to support those who choose to sacrifice their salary and put their careers on hold to stay at home and look after their children. This flies in the face of pre-Election rhetoric where several MPs spoke of ensuring support for families in this way.” However, Mr Leitch praised the move to support working families, and said: “While we would have preferred the Government to have properly funded universal childcare provision for all families, regardless of income, this should eventually be good news for families where both parents are working and for lone-parent families with a working parent.” Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association also praised the Government’s move to extend childcare vouchers to help more working families, but warned: “The voucher system must be user friendly for parents and minimise administration for nurseries. We also need to make sure that lower and middle income families benefit and support is available where it is needed most, including for families in receipt of Universal Credit.” The chance for parents to submit their opinions through the survey closes tomorrow.

Nursery or Nanny?

Nanny reading to baby

I often get asked what are the advantages of employing a nanny against sending your children to Nursery. As always, each family is unique with different cultures, traditions and preferences in childcare. However, there are some basic facts which ought to be borne in mind when making a decision, and some myths need busting, too.

What are the benefits of hiring a nanny?

A professional nanny will soon become a member of your family, you will rely on your nanny and the trust you place in them will ensure total peace of mind whilst you are at work. There are several pieces of authorised research that say children always progress more in a home environment. You can choose your nanny, and know who is looking after your children. One to one care will always be better for your child.

I like the idea of my children having the opportunity to socialise. How can a nanny do that?

Nannies have the opportunity to take your children to a variety of activities, organised ones, such as swimming lessons, and tumble tots, and more relaxed activities such as story time at the library. In each case your children will have the opportunity to mix with other children. Nanny may well have an established network of other nannies in your area, and with your permission can organise play dates and trips out. This flexibility means that if your child is not up to mixing with others due to illness or just an off day, then nanny can organise a quiet day at home, which will be better for your child.

What happens if Nanny is sick?

Generally, Nannies come to work however they are feeling, because they understand their place in the family. Without them the family can’t function. Generally, this is not a problem. If Nanny has an ongoing health problem a temporary nanny could be the solution to take her place until she is better.

However, if you have a sick child this is a big problem, as Nurseries will call you and ask you to collect your child. Often this is on a day when you have an important meeting. It can be very distressing for all. Be sure that in a nursery environment, and especially for babies, they will catch a lot of colds, and other bugs. If your child is ill, Nanny will have the experience to look after your child, who will get better much more quickly in their own surroundings. If diet and rest are important to recovery Nanny will be able to provide that care, whilst you can carry on with your life.

How much does it cost to hire a nanny?

Like all professionals, nannies expect a fair salary. Nanny will have studied for two years to obtain a childcare qualification, and she will have sole charge of your child for long periods, most nannies work a 10/12 hour day. When you think of your child as the most valuable and vulnerable thing in your life, a fair salary to a nanny falls into perspective. Nannies in the South East, excluding London would expect to earn on experience, between £10 and £12 gross per hour. No one ever regretted buying quality. Nursery fees are cheaper, there is no doubt about that, however if you have two children, hiring a nanny can be very cost effective, as Nursery will charge per child. Nanny will not charge a premium for extra children unless there are more than 4 or in some cases twins or triplets. When thinking about the cost of childcare, focus on how much you pay a cleaner, at least £10 gross per hour, there is no responsibility in this role. Compare that to the role of a sole charge Nanny. A nanny can be part time, full time, live in or out, and you could consider a nanny share to spread the cost between you and another family. Do consider that they have the same family values as you, though.

I’m concerned about becoming an employer

In the UK you must declare that you are an employer if you pay someone more than £116 per week. HMRC are cracking down on the ‘cash in hand’ economy and have families in their sights. However, if you use a specialist payroll company, you can, for under £200 per year have tax and national insurance calculated, monthly nanny payslips, and P60 at the end of each tax year done for you. On a monthly or quarterly basis they will inform you how much to pay HMRC. It couldn’t be easier, and for time poor parents is a very good option. You must also provide a contract of employment, and a good Nanny agency will always help you with a template contract. You will have to organise holidays for nanny, and most families choose two weeks, and ask nanny to choose two weeks with a week off at Christmas. If cover is an issue, an agency will be able to help you with temporary cover. Some nannies holiday with their families, too. Nurseries often close for a week or two in the summer holidays.

What happens if I’m late home from work?

Nanny will understand that sometimes things don’t go to plan, especially during winter months with train services. Nanny will stay on until you get home and put the children to bed. It shouldn’t be an issue. Flexibility is key here. Nurseries have a closing time, and it’s often 6pm. They will stay open until you arrive, but if it happens too often, there may be problems, and of course you are charged extra. Your child meanwhile is hungry, and tired and waiting for you. Your stress levels could be through the roof! If you travel with your work, providing you give Nanny notice she can stay over and act as a proxy parent whilst you are away.

Which supplementary duties should Nanny do?

Apart from childcare, Nanny should do her ‘nursery duties’ which include all your children’s washing and ironing, keeping the children’s rooms clean and tidy, and their toys sorted and clean. You should expect other areas of the house that the children use to be kept clean, such as the kitchen and playroom, and most importantly, Nanny should be a good cook. Healthy, nutritious and balanced meals should come as standard, and a professional nanny should cook these from scratch. Nanny shouldn’t be doing your general cleaning or the family washing. None of this is available to you with nursery care.

In conclusion

Generally, if you have one child and on a strict budget, a nursery place may be better for you, however, if you have more than one child and need flexibility and the peace of mind that your child is receiving first class professional care in your own home, then a Nanny is the best option.

Always use a recognised agency, who have met their candidates, checked and spoken to past employers and verified their qualifications. A current enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check should also be in place, as should a current Paediatric First Aid Certificate. When choosing an agency, check that they are members of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and adhere to their strict codes of conduct. Best of all, a recommendation will ensure your peace of mind. A good agency will hold your hand and guide you through the procedure of hiring a nanny and be there for you throughout your Nanny’s employment.