Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has welcomed the Executive’s approval to her request for amendments to existing Universal Credit (UC) regulations which pave the way for upfront childcare costs.
The move is part of the Minister’s ongoing response to the Covid-19 pandemic which includes a range of labour market interventions designed to help remove barriers to employment.
The Minister’s proposals will see the introduction of a non-repayable grant of up to £1500 paid in advance to a registered childcare provider.
Minister Hargey said:
“Many people do not have the resources to pay upfront childcare costs which most childcare providers require.
“For women, lone parents and low income families especially, this can act as a major barrier to employment.
“In order to address this, I will be making help available through a non-repayable grant of up to £1,500.”
Crucially, the amendments to the current regulations will allow childcare payments made by the Department to be used in the calculation of the person’s childcare costs element.
The payment of the UC childcare element following the payment of any grant will ensure that recipients will have sufficient resources to pay for the second and subsequent months of childcare in advance and then claim it in arrears from UC.
Ensuring upfront childcare costs paid are included in the UC account when calculating the childcare element, is an essential part of ensuring the person remains in employment and does not face falling into debt in order to move into work.
Minister Hargey continued,
“It is widely recognised that childcare is critical in helping parents into work and moving families out of poverty.
“Affordable, flexible and accessible childcare allows parents to access work, improve their workplace skills and employability, or continue to be economically active.
“The provision of upfront childcare costs is part of my wider response to the impact of Covid-19 on the labour market, which ensures that those who have been most impacted by the pandemic get the support they need to return or move into employment as soon as possible.”
Notes to editors:
- Universal Credit pays up to 85% of a person’s childcare costs.
- In October, the Universal Credit (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2016 will be amended to allow childcare payments made by the Department for Communities through the Adviser Discretion Fund (ADF) to be used in the calculation of the person’s childcare costs element.
- The ADF is a grant fund available to help remove barriers to employment that prevent people moving towards and into employment. From 12th April 2021, people can avail of a non-repayable grant up to £1,500 in a 12 month period. Previously this limit was set at £300.
- In addition to childcare costs, the ADF will provide funding to remove barriers to employment such as the cost of short training courses, re-training in an expanding sector, travel costs and support for those who are self-employed.
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