The government has announced that the employer-operated childcare voucher scheme will remain open to new entrants for a further six months, i.e. until October 2018. The childcare voucher scheme, also called employer-supported childcare (ESC), was due to close from 6 April 2018 and be replaced by the government-backed childcare payments scheme, also called tax-free childcare (TFC). The government announced the extension during a debate in the House of Commons in response to concerns expressed by MPs about problems with the operation of TFC.
TFC was initially launched on a phased basis in April 2017. It has different eligibility criteria to ESC, plus employers have no involvement at all in the running of TFC. Employees who are already on ESC are not obliged to switch over to TFC, as ESC will continue to run as normal providing employers continue to offer the scheme. However, ESC was due to close to new applications from 6 April 2018. It is now due to close to new entrants in October 2018 and, as a result, employers can continue to admit new members to their schemes for a further six months.