This year has seen the end of the childcare vouchers. The scheme had existed since 1989 and was introduced as a way of supporting working parents through salary sacrifice. This meant that those earning the least were getting the most support.
What’s the deal?
Unfortunately, the UK Government stopped the childcare voucher scheme on 4th October 2018 and are not be accepting any new applicants. This is not the first time the government has tried to close the scheme, back in 2009 they attempted to but there was a successful petition against it which prevented its closure. This time campaigners were not as fortunate but it is not over just yet! If you have missed out and don’t think it’s fair, then get involved by joining the campaign #savechildcarevouchers. There is an online petition that has already gained over 119,000 signatures and is aimed at saving the scheme. To find out more, click here.
I am already part of the scheme, what does this mean for me?
If you applied before the date above, you may still get the vouchers but there are a couple of restrictions you should know about:
- Your employer must continue to run the scheme
- You must stay with the same employer
- You can’t have an unpaid break from work for more than a year
- You must have had a wage adjustment before the closing date of the scheme
So, why were childcare vouchers scraped?
It was due to the introduction of a new scheme called Tax-Free Childcare. This works by saving 20% on childcare costs, however, if both parents live at the address then must both be working (this was not the case with childcare vouchers). For more details on your eligibility and general information, click here. There are some big differences between the schemes and which was one is ‘better’ depends on your personal circumstances so if you want to have a look at the difference, you can see here.
"As a 3rd year, I am currently experiencing the overwhelming transition from a degree and back to reality, realising that I graduate this year and I have nothing lined up. Additional issues such as the child-care support changes add so much more pressure to student parents in finding work and managing child-care.
I recently learned the hard way that childcare vouchers had ended. On the term my daughter started nursery she was turning 3, I was encouraged by her nursery to apply for tax-free childcare after discussing concerns over affordability. When I applied, there was no option to put that I am a full-time student; it simply asked me how many hours I worked. Whilst if it were the childcare vouchers, my partner would have been doing enough hours at work alone to claim for them, resulting in less concern. However, since the scheme has changed, I am not working the required 16 hours alongside him for us to claim. Due to this, my partner had to cut his hours to work only weekends, just so he can help with child-care for our 2 young children during the week, whilst I am on campus.
To add, we do receive help during the academic year by way of a childcare grant. It’s concerning when as a 3rd year the childcare grant finishes on the last day of term 3. As a result of this, I’m locked into a year-round nursery placement that we struggle afford now we no longer have the financial support.
I would always encourage students to check they all have the correct student finance in place with regards to childcare and income grants so they are not overwhelmed when they are approaching their final year."
[Layla Davey, Third Year Psychology Student]
Having financial difficulties?
Finding a balance between your degree, home life, and a job can be difficult, even more so when you’re worrying about money on top of everything else. We know that sometimes changes to schemes like this can be stressful if they have a negative impact on your finances, especially if you’ve had to switch from one scheme to the other. We have spoken to SU Advice on how we might be able to help and have some information for you that might make your time slightly easier.
“The SU Advice Hardship Loan provides short-term emergency loans to students at the University of Essex. All registered students are eligible to submit an application for a loan via our website essex.su/money. Students are able to request loans between £5 and £100 and are eligible to request one loan per term during the academic year (however, no further loans can be issued whilst a previous repayment is still outstanding).
Students choose their own repayment dates (all loans must be repaid within the same academic year that the loan was issued) and we can accept repayment in installments if preferred. We do not charge any interest on the loans – you simply repay what you borrowed.
Loans can be for any number of reasons; however, we are unable to issue loans for the purpose of paying University fees/debts or for the purpose of paying Rent/Deposits. Additionally, if a student has been registered in debt for failure to repay a previous loan they would not be eligible for any future loans.
If students are experiencing any financial difficulties, there is support available on campus, both through SU Advice, the University Funding Team and there are also external services and charities that offer free financial advice. Please feel free to book an appointment with SU Advice to discuss any concerns you might be having. University of Essex students also have free access to Black Bullion, an online resource for budgeting and financial advice"
[Sian Lovesy, SU Advice Manager]
Having issues with your benefits? The university has created separate documents (which can be found here ) for UK undergraduates and UK postgraduates with information regarding benefits whilst you are studying. If you still need a little extra support then the Citizens Advice Bureau are a charity organisation that might be able to help you on a number of issues such as finances, benefits, jobs and legal. They provide this information and advice for free! To get in touch with them, visit the website.