The UK coalition government's childcare voucher proposals will not help those most in need in the midst of huge further cuts the chancellor is planning, say critics.
The Westminster government says that from 2015 parents working at least 16 hours a week will be able to claim back up to £1,200 per year per child under the age of five.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, a church-related charity, said: “Although it is important that the government is focussing its attention on the need to help families with child care, it is of great concern that the poorest families are once again being missed out.
“Only around a fifth of the money earmarked by government will go to the country’s low to middle income families receiving help through Tax Credits or Universal Credit.
“Effective support with childcare is crucial to help families move out of poverty by making work pay. By failing to target those most in need, the government has once again missed a crucial opportunity to help move children out of poverty.”
However, Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and spokesperson on children for the Scottish Greens, responded: “We have the highest childcare costs in the world bar Switzerland, and twice the worldwide average cost. This is preventing women in particular from taking up employment opportunities. In the UK only 67 per cent of mothers go to work, compared to 84 per cent in Denmark and 78 per cent in the Netherlands.
"If you're struggling to make ends meet you're unlikely to be able to pay for childcare in the hope you can claim back some of the cost. The Coalition is trying to tempt people with the promise of something beyond the next general election.
"The most unpopular Chancellor in living memory is about to unleash further billions of pounds of austerity cuts in his budget, making these childcare proposals nothing more than window dressing," she said.
The reference was to a reported further £2.5 billion government cuts that Mr Osborne may unveil today.
Meanwhile, 3.6 million children in the UK are living in poverty, and six in 10 children living in poverty are in low-income working families.
Of the £950 million the government has announced it will provide for additional support with child care, only £200 million will go to the country’s low to middle income families receiving help through Tax Credits or Universal Credit.
The full details of childcare support for families on this support is yet to be announced.
The UK government’s proposals are to spend £750 million to cover up to 20% of childcare costs for households not receiving Universal Credit and with no one in the household earning more than £150,000. This will be introduced from 2015.
* OECD figures showing the UK has the highest costs of childcare for any country apart from Switzerland (Guardian):