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Lord Goodhart: At the beginning of my speech I indicated that this was a probing amendment introduced in order to hear a statement of the Government's intention. We have had that from the noble Baroness and I am grateful to her. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 58:

Before Clause 14, insert the following new clause--
(" . At the end of subsection (1)(b) of section 129 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (disability working allowance) there shall be inserted "or is the parent of a child under 16 entitled to any rate of either component of disability living allowance or for the disabled child's premium".")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 58, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 60 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rix. The purpose of my amendment is to extend entitlement to the disabled person's tax credit to families with a disabled child. That will benefit parents with low incomes and those restricted to part-time work due to caring responsibilities. It will also boost the Government's

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welfare-to-work strategy. Families with disabled children incur disability-related expenditure and have a higher ongoing regular extra cost. The disabled person's tax credit is therefore the most applicable in-work benefit. It is paid at a higher rate than the WFTC because it recognises these costs.

I strongly support Amendment No. 60 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, because often the only option for childcare provision is that in the home specially adapted for the disabled child. His amendment should therefore be agreed to by the Government. I beg to move my Amendment No. 58.

Lord Higgins: I support the amendment. My noble friend Lord Swinfen spelt out clearly the reasons why it ought to be accepted and referred to the related amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rix. As I know from my constituency experience, there are real problems with regard to disabled children in the home and the need to adapt buildings to cope with their problems. I hope that we shall receive a sympathetic response from the Government.

Lord Rix: My amendment has been grouped with Amendment No. 58, although I believe that each addresses a slightly different subject. However, I am extremely grateful for the support given to me just now by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen.

Perhaps I may express to the Minister my overall support for this very important Clause 15, which enables the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding new categories of childcare provider for tax credit purposes.

This clause was introduced by the Government in another place, demonstrating their willingness continually to improve on the scope of this legislation. Indeed the Minister has very kindly written to me and to others informing us of the Government's commitment to investigating further improvements to assist parents of children with special needs. I have tabled this amendment for the sole purpose of probing for further information on work in progress to extend verifiable childcare so as to enable those who look after children in their own home to benefit from the tax credit.

These arguments are well rehearsed but cannot be sufficiently reiterated. It is deeply unfair to penalise the parents of children with learning disabilities who require intensive support and care which can only be met in the child's home. They too should have access to childcare credits. I am aware that this may raise problematic issues in terms of accreditation but I urge the Government to solve this problem for disabled persons' tax credit and working families' tax credit recipients as a matter of urgency.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The proposed new clause, Amendment No. 58, aims to widen the scope of DPTC to able-bodied couples with disabled children. It is grouped with Amendment No. 60, which seeks to enable the new system for proven childcare providers to extend to care provided for disabled children in the home.

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I turn first to Amendment No. 58. The desired effect of the new clause would appear to be to widen entitlement to DPTC to the working parents of disabled children, even if the parents themselves are able-bodied. I have to say, although I do not want to get hung up about this, that the clause would not have that effect. The qualifying rules for DPTC, as for DWA, which it replaces, have another leg which the clause does not address. The parents of the disabled child would still need to be in receipt of a "qualifying benefit" in the period--to be extended from 56 days to 182 days by this Bill--prior to the claim being made. That would rather frustrate what appears to be the object of the clause.

The clause proposes to extend eligibility to able-bodied parents who have disabled children and for the child's disability to be the gateway to this tax credit. But supporting parents of disabled children, desirable though that is, is done through other aspects of legislation, in particular the disability living allowance. It is not the object of the DPTC, which remains a work incentive measure for disabled people and non-disabled people alike.

DPTC is a tax credit aimed at helping people who have a disability or illness which puts them at a disadvantage in getting a job to move into or remain in work. That is why DPTC, not WFTC, has the lower credit for an individual who is not responsible for any children. In other words, DPTC is a personal and not a household benefit. The tax credit which is aimed at supplying help to families with children is the WFTC.

However, the clause raises the question of how the tax credits should help disabled children. In an earlier amendment (Amendment No. 10), we debated the differences between the two benefits and what would be the two new tax credits. I acknowledge that DPTC--like DWA, upon which it builds--has a specific additional credit for a disabled child, whereas WFTC, like family credit, does not.

As I pointed out on earlier amendments, the new tax credits have been built from the platform that the benefits provide, and specific changes are being made to enable the tax credits to deliver their objectives in response to points raised during the development period.

These differences, repeated tonight, were raised during the debate on Amendment No. 10 by the noble Lords, Lord Swinfen and Lord Rix. I said then that the point which he raised was a proper one for us to reflect upon, and that remains the case. The noble Lord said that he was delighted that the Government would be tabling an amendment. I said, no, that we were reflecting and not committing ourselves to any further amendment. However, we recognised that there was an issue on which to reflect.

Amendment No. 60 aims at a slightly different target but still relates to providing help where there is a disabled child. It proposes that Clause 15, which was introduced on Report in the other place, should be amended so that there is a specific mention of care for disabled children in their own homes. That was a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, at Second Reading.

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However, Clause 15 of this Bill is not the place for this amendment because the clause enables a wholly new category of approved childcare providers to be created and, most importantly, achieves that by accrediting organisations with appropriate quality assurance schemes for that approval.

The measure is aimed specifically at out-of-school care for those aged eight and over who are catered for to only a limited extent under the current rules for eligible childcare. The clause is particularly important because of the increase in the age limit to 14 year-olds or 16 year-old disabled children to help with childcare costs. I do not believe that the noble Lord would want help limited to disabled children just within that age group, which is what the proposed clause would push us to.

I have sympathy with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord both today and at Second Reading. Those sentiments are widely shared. The general principle of what the Government are doing is to make good quality childcare more affordable as part of those work incentive measures. That is in line with the Government's national childcare strategy as set out in the Green Paper, Meeting the Child Care Challenge.

We are aware of the problems which disabled children face. On 13th January, my honourable friend the Paymaster General said that,

    "the Government is looking at all the types of childcare provided currently, their quality assurance and whether the types of eligible childcare for the childcare tax credit could be extended. We are looking particularly at care provided for children between 11 and 14--who are beyond the age covered by most of the current regulatory arrangements--and at care provided for disabled children where there may be special care needs". We shall continue to reflect on what can be done.

I should point out also, in relation to both amendments, that the issues raised are generally matters for regulations. If the noble Lord were not to press the amendment, that would not impede us reflecting on how we should take forward those issues.

The disabled child credit in DWA is set out in regulations, as it will be for DPTC. The categories of eligible childcare providers are also specified there. Having said that and having said in relation to both amendments that we shall reflect on them, I ask that Amendment No. 58 be withdrawn.

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