The ultimate care voucher would be a dozen different things.
It would be accessible, affordable and appropriate for working parents and carers.
It would apply to childcare and care for a dependent adult, such as a partner, elderly parent, relative or close friend.
It would be simple and flexible to use for emergency or back-up care, care search, information and advice services, and the sourcing, arrangement and delivery of care services.
It would cover care and support services anywhere across the country for workers who are caring at a distance.
It would cover care provided at home, hospital or in other settings.
It would cover technology-enabled care, such as telecare and other equipment which can help people to live independently and help their family members to stay in work.
It would be affordable and exempt from taxation.
It would be available in two ways: either through the workplace as a tax-exempt employee benefit or, if the employer does not provide vouchers, through a central provider, also on a tax-exempt basis.
The prime place to let people know about, and access, the voucher, is via their workplace. However, because not all employers are likely to choose to offer a voucher, it is important that individuals with caring responsibilities can access them outside the workplace as well.
It would be accessible to people with caring responsibilities who are gradually moving into work; for example, following a period of caring or the birth of a child.
It would be accessible to people who are temporarily absent from work due to caring responsibilities; for example, while in receipt of carer’s allowance.
It would be well promoted and publicised by government, the central voucher provider and by employers. Active promotion is essential to ensure that working people who need help with caring recognise that they are eligible for this support and come forward to access it.
It would drive growth in a diverse care (and childcare) market by helping to build the supply of support services for carers and their families.
Katherine Wilson is a strategic manager at Employers for Carers, part of Carers UK