A senior minister has admitted he has no idea whether the government is considering introducing tax breaks for carers as part of future legislation.
Jim Fitzpatrick, minister for employment relations, was questioned by leading carers’ charities at a conference in London last week, organised by the Working Families campaign group.
Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, asked Fitzpatrick what the government’s view was on extending childcare vouchers to cover carers.
Fitzpatrick admitted: “I haven’t got an answer to that. I really don’t know enough about it.”
Delegates were clearly unimpressed with the minister’s lack of knowledge about the proposed scheme.
John Woodward, managing director of voucher provider Busy Bees, said: “I thought the question could have had a better response than ‘I don’t know’.”
The government has been lobbied extensively to commit to tax breaks for carers in its next comprehensive spending review, to be announced next year.
Personnel Today is backing a campaign that would enable employers to offer a voucher to employees who care for a dependent relative, similar to those available for childcare.
Katherine Williamson, redeployment officer at Leicestershire County Council, also asked Fitzpatrick whether the government had any plans to increase flexible working rights to all parents.
The Work and Families Act currently covers children under the age of six, disabled children under 18 and, most recently, carers.
Fitzpatrick was adamant about not extending the flexible working legislation.
“[The government] has outlined how far it thinks it can go. We’re not able to go as far as you want. My apologies for disappointing you,” he said.