Committee hears benefits of Increasing tax-free childcare allowance

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has said that evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee highlights the need for the Government to increase the tax-free childcare allowance.

By Carla Lockhart MP

Upper Bann

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The Committee met today in Parliament Buildings, Stormont to hear evidence from on the effect of paramilitary activity and organised crime. Appearing before the Committee were representatives from the Women’s Resource and Development Agency, Women’s Aid Federation NI and Women’s Support Network.

The DUP MP said, “Amongst the many issues highlighted to the committee we heard today particularly about issues facing women. Poverty is a huge problem within many communities and only recently we heard how loan sharks were even preying on people as they used local foodbanks.

Even when work is available, for many people it simply isn’t affordable to work because of the cost of childcare. This was borne out by those giving evidence today who cited childcare as a significant barrier to many people finding work. Childcare costs in Northern Ireland are significantly above the UK average and are on a par with central London. Over 40% of parents have indicated they are forced to regularly use savings, overdrafts, credit cards and even payday loans to cover the cost of childcare.

The Chancellor has the ability to reduce the Tax Free Childcare Allowance, which would reduce a major hurdle in getting more people into the workforce. Such a move would not just benefit our economy but from the evidence heard today, would have much wider societal benefits across many communities in Northern Ireland.

Treasury has previously indicated that the Tax Free Childcare Scheme consistently underspends. There is therefore room and ability for it to be widened. In these hugely challenging times, it could make a significant difference to the largest bill faced by many households.”

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