Some of you know through my correspondence that I have been lobbying the Government to improve how childcare is reported and paid for under the new Universal Credit system.
I know some of my residents, particularly those in rural areas, cannot always get their invoices in for childcare within their Universal Credit assessment period. This can leave claimants out of pocket when paying for child care.
This week Mims Davies has announced that new regulations will be laid to make changes to childcare cost reporting arrangements to help parents recover their childcare costs. In order to ensure that busy parents have the maximum opportunity to recover childcare costs, extra time will now be given. Instead of having the single assessment period, parents will now have an additional month to report their childcare costs.
This should make it much easier for parents making use of small nurseries for their childcare who provide invoices on a monthly basis. If you are in this kind of situation, please make contact with the Job Centre to ensure any bills arriving outside of your usual assessment period are accounted for in the next payment.
Additionally, the Minister has also extended the Flexible Support Fund. This fund is usually used by benefit claimants in the period between starting work and receiving their first wage to cover the costs of clothing, transport and other fees. The fund is now being expanded to include childcare.
I am pleased to say that not only can fees be covered in the Flexible Support Fund but also any deposits, retainers and advances for taster sessions, which should help even more parents settle into their new jobs quickly without the worry of childcare arrangements.
Finally, the budgeting advances (repayable to DWP through future benefit instalments) have also been extended to pay for any further upfront childcare costs, such as school holiday clubs, childcare provider changes or other short-notice issues arising around childcare.
I feel this is a fantastic set of changes, bringing a much more flexible approach to helping parents back into work. I will continue to lobby the DWP to make reporting childcare costs easier but if you have any queries on this issue, let me know and I will raise them with the Minister directly.