§ (" .—(1) In subsection (3) of section 29 of the Children Act 1989 (recoupment of cost of providing services etc.), after "subsection (1)" there is inserted "for a service provided under section 17 or section 18(1) or (5)".
(2) After that subsection there is inserted—
(3A) No person shall be liable to pay any charge under subsection (1) for a service provided under section 18(2) or (6) at any time when he is in receipt of income support under Part VII of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 or of an income-based jobseeker's allowance."").
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 376. It would insert a new clause relating to charging for local authority childcare. Commons Amendment No. 484 is consequential.
The effect is to allow, not require, local authorities to charge parents in receipt of working families tax credit and disabled persons tax credit for the childcare that authorities provide. That would apply unless they are parents of children in need, when they will receive that childcare free. People on benefits who currently receive free local authority childcare will continue to do so.
There are a number of reasons for that change being important and necessary. Tax credits provide income for parents to enable them to purchase childcare, so it is illogical to offer childcare free to those in receipt of it. Tax credits provide more generous and widespread support than the benefits they replaced. In the first six months since working families tax credit was introduced, more than 1 million families have taken it up—far more than family credit. Through the working families tax credit, parents could receive support of up to 70 per cent of childcare costs, up to a maximum of £70 per week for families with one child and £105 for families with two or more children. Those in receipt of 97 the tax credit could include parents earning up to £42,000 a year. Surely they should be expected to contribute to the costs of childcare.
A number of authorities have pressed hard for change. Local authorities have a necessary and valuable part to play in increasing the availability of childcare places delivered through the national childcare strategy. Fee income from parents helps them to fulfil that role. Free local authority childcare creates an uneven playing field for other childcare providers and parents who do not have or cannot get local authority childcare. We shall continue to ensure that local authority childcare is provided free to the parents of children in need. The Government recognise that children in need require particular support. The new provisions will take effect as soon as possible. Amendment No. 376 is a practical, fair and logical measure called for by local authorities and I commend it to your Lordships.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 6.30 p.m.