Worried about childcare costs? You're not a civil servant, then

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The Independent Online
THE TAXPAYER is paying up to half the childcare costs for civil servants' children - more than pounds 70 a week in some cases - as part of a Whitehall package on equal opportunities.

With The Independent opening a campaign this week for a national childcare tax allowance, the revelation of what the Government itself is doing for its own employees will add to the pressure for all parents to get cash assistance.

In a batch of Commons questions yesterday, Harry Barnes, one of the MPs campaigning for affordable Parliamentary childcare provision, asked ministers what their departments were doing - and what subsidies they were paying.

The most detailed answer was provided by Angela Eagle, at the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, who said that a 50 per cent subsidy for 10 places in two government-organised Westminster nurseries was costing the taxpayer between pounds 73 and pounds 78 a week per place.

The Independent campaign is calling for a tax break of pounds 1,800 a year - less than pounds 8 a week on the pay cheques of most parents.

Official government guidance on Quality Childcare in the Civil Service says: "Departments or agencies which have made childcare provision find that it can bring significant benefits."

A reduction in absenteeism and sick leave, and fewer resignations for domestic reasons, are cited as benefits, along with the fact "that staff are better able to concentrate on their work because they know their children are being properly cared for".

The biggest childcare provider, according to last night's Commons answers, is the Ministry of Defence, with 500 full-time places for officials' children.

Campaign reports, page 10