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Lord Higgins: My Lords, I do not myself interpret the word "family" as meaning only the parents and children. Clearly, a great many other relatives can be involved and it is my intention to include them.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, when DSS regulations talk about a "family" in relation to an assessment of an income-related benefit, they do not take into account the money of the grandma, aunt, uncle or stepbrother. They refer to the relationship of the two adult parents and possibly, in terms of housing benefit, to any contribution made by an adult child as an offset to the benefit that the parents would get otherwise. We have to assume the meaning of "family" within the understanding of DSS law.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, perhaps the amendment is rather loosely worded.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, is the Inland Revenue's view of the "family" different from that of the Department of Social Security? If so, that may make a difference to the amendment.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the problem with Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 is the cost involved. The

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Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that if childcare were taken up by everybody, the cost would be of the order of £4 billion per year. This provision would not affect the whole of the £4 billion because not everybody would claim for childcare provided by a grandmother or family member. It would not, as I understand it, cover a mother looking after her own children. Even so, it will obviously be very expensive. Although we warmly welcome the generous level of benefits provided under the new arrangement, we have to look at the realities. Much as we would like to see something along the lines of the amendment, reality would not allow that at this stage. Therefore, I am unable to support the noble Lord's amendment.

11 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am slightly baffled as to the intent of the amendments. I had assumed that they were about a subject that we had previously discussed. That involved a situation where, if the mother was at home and not working, she would nevertheless still be entitled to, effectively, a wage as a mother by receiving the childcare tax credit--which is what is said in the amendment. The second issue, which it is perfectly proper to raise, is whether we are willing to finance informal as opposed to formal care. That is a totally different issue. Informal care could include care by a neighbour, a sister, a nanny, an au pair or whatever. If the noble Lord is concerned about that situation, I am very happy to explain why we are not doing that. I will scrap all my notes, which were addressed to what is said in the amendment.

If someone wishes to claim childcare tax credit for a child up to the age of eight, it may only be claimed where the person involved is a registered child minder; that is, a person who has been registered by the local authority as a fit and proper person and whose home is a fit and proper place by reasons of hygiene, safety, electrical appliances and all the other kinds of things that one would expect. The child minder is therefore registered as self-employed in a small business and handling accounts. That is the protection: the childcarer is of adequate quality, having been registered, and there can be no abuse in the sense of back-handed payments of money with no accounts kept. It is a proper business, run with proper accounts. If someone is to claim against it, the Inland Revenue will have access to that information should it need it.

Protection for the taxpayer and the child alike requires the Government to use registered child minders. We are considering whether we can provide greater help for disabled children in their own homes. We are not seeking to provide a general subsidy for au pairs, nannies or the next door neighbour. It is public money; we are accountable for the proper spending of public money; therefore it must pass through registered childminders. That is why we are funding formal care rather than informal care.

It may be helpful if I explain what we are doing in regard to children over the age of eight. I think that Amendment No. 33 attempts to state that an amount

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equivalent to the average charges made by persons in this category shall be taken into account where the childcare is provided by a member of the family. The persons in the new category will in the main work in out-of-school clubs, providing care for children aged eight and over. Clearly, it is inappropriate to read that back into what a partner might do. The rates the clubs charge will depend upon the service they provide. A breakfast club taking children before school will charge differently to an after-school club, which will charge differently to a holiday play scheme. The charge will depend on the length of care provided. A breakfast club may provide care for one hour each day; an after-school club for a few hours; holiday play schemes for a whole day. The charges will have a considerable range. It is not sensible to confine the help the amendment seeks to provide to an average charge when there is palpably no such thing in this sector.

I do not want to begin to contemplate the administrative burdens such a system would impose on childcare providers to collect information about the charges made, in order that the average can be worked out and then paid to somebody else. It would be an administrative nightmare.

In contrast to Amendment No. 33, Amendment No. 34 links the amount to be taken into account,

    "to half the maximum amount available towards charges made by persons in the new category". Help for charges made by persons in the new category would be no different to the help given for other eligible childcare charges; that is, 70 per cent of those charges up to a maximum help of £70 per week for one child, £105 when two or more children are being looked after. Presumably the amendment is trying to state that the stay-at-home carer should receive £35 per week for one child or £52.50--that is, half of £105--for two or more children. I think that is what the amendment states, even if it is not what the noble Lord intended.

That brings me back to the argument about whether it is right to pay the childcare costs to a mother or a partner who stays at home. I do not believe that it is right to do that through the childcare tax credit. Of course, as part of the national childcare strategy, we will widen the opportunities of childcare for all children, whether or not one of their parents is at home looking after them.

I am happy to go on at length about the difference in cost between a couple where one partner stays at home and another family where both are at work. However, if that is not the purport of the noble Lord's amendment and his concern was about the difference between formal and informal, I shall not occupy the time of the House at this hour.

I am in the hands of the noble Lord as to whether I should close my remarks at this stage, having made clear why we are seeking to protect the position of formal as opposed to informal and the difference in treatment between the under-eights and the

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over-eights--as envisaged, the under eights through registered childcare certified by local authorities; and for the over-eights, the DfEE will certify accredited organisations which, in turn, will be able to register other groups as qualifying and providing care of a suitable kind. If the noble Lord is satisfied with that response, I shall close my remarks. I could go on for very much longer, but I do not want to trespass on the patience of the House this late at night.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I must apologise for the ambiguity and the incorrectness of the form in which the amendment appeared. It was certainly my intention to raise the question of--I will not use the term "extended family" which has other implications--grannies, aunts and so on. I can understand how the noble Baroness and her officials took the amendment to mean individuals whom we had debated on different amendments at an earlier stage. It was not my intention to raise that again. The Minister's remarks have been helpful. I shall give thought to them between now and Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 8, line 42, after ("State") insert ("because the organisation provides child care for disabled children or")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 36 which is consequential on it. The amendment seeks merely to establish, in the framework which the Minister outlined a moment ago, precisely the scope of the various organisations which might provide care and, in particular, to clarify whether it includes the organisations which provide childcare for disabled children. At this stage I am merely seeking clarification of that scope in the light of the amendments previously moved in another place. I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the short answer to that is yes. The same arrangements will apply for disabled children as apply for non-disabled children. There is provision for the under-eights and there is provision for the over-eights. What is new here is the provision for over-eights. The framework will operate by setting up two tiers of voluntary regulation. In the top tier, organisations in the childcare field--for example, daycare trusts, kids' networks or whatever--which operate a quality assurance scheme would apply to the Secretary of State for accreditation which would then allow them to approve childcare providers as part of their quality assurance. In other words, the DfEE would license two, three, five or whatever major organisations of a national character to, in turn, license individual bodies which would meet the standards they had set down. We will be acting through voluntary organisations with the appropriate skills to establish the

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local voluntary network. The Secretary of State, when considering an application for accreditation, will look at the way the organisation would use its quality assurance scheme to approve individual providers which had achieved an appropriate quality standard agreed with the Secretary of State.

It is a novel scheme because it seeks to use the expertise that is currently developing among childcare organisations and to harness their work so as to encourage and ensure the provision of good quality out-of-school childcare. But it is important to emphasise that the scheme is not restrictive. Both the providers and the organisation which run the quality assurance schemes opt into the scheme. It is not like the regulatory framework set down by the Children Act where everyone caring for the under-eights must comply unless they are specifically exempted. That is why the legislation is enabling and not regulatory in the sense that is commonly used. It enables parents to afford good quality out-of-school care and it enables providers to offer their services to a wider range of parents than would otherwise be the case. Not only is it a novel measure but it enables issues such as the provision of care for disabled children to be readily accommodated within the process. Many groups to which we have spoken tell us that disabled children and their parents prefer disabled children to mix with and be cared for alongside other able-bodied children. This is what the framework seeks to achieve.

Among the criteria which the individual providers will need to fulfil is the need for a robust, equal opportunities policy for the children in their care. It is this aspect which seeks to ensure that the approved childcare in this sector is open to children with disabilities in the same way as for able-bodied children. Furthermore, specialist childcare for disabled children in the age range eight to 16 is not debarred from joining in the accredited organisations quality assurance scheme and becoming approved for the purposes of the childcare tax credit.

In conclusion, the current framework for the under-eights and a new framework aimed at eights and over, which is what Clause 15 is delivering, will accommodate those who provide childcare for disabled children and, most importantly, they would apply the same quality standards. There is no question of disabled children accepting or receiving a lower quality of care than would be expected for any other child.

The Government have gone further than this. As I say, as part of the package of measures to help those disabilities which my honourable friend the Paymaster General announced last Monday, there was a commitment to begin consultations with appropriate bodies about how to improve the necessary provision of care in a disabled child's home as eligible childcare for the childcare tax credit, which is not the case for the ordinary registered childminder. This is all good news. I would hope that in the light of this the noble Lord will see that his amendments are actually inappropriate, and

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indeed the insertion of the condition that the organisation provides childcare for disabled children is unhelpful and could actually be counter-productive. I hope that in the light of my efforts at explaining what we are doing and the good news I have been able to relay, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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