Charities and trade unions reacted cautiously yesterday to a government plan for a childcare subsidy.
The Con-Dem coalition announced the grant for working parents with incomes of up to £300,000 after months of pressure from unions and other groups over the soaring prices of nurseries and childminders.
But the scheme hasn't given them much cause to celebrate.
"It's good to see ministers also acknowledging that childcare costs don't stop once a child starts school," said TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady.
"It's just a pity that parents will have to wait until at least next autumn for help - the overwhelming majority could do with that help right now."
The plan is for a £2,000 tax break per child - but for many families this won't be enough.
Single-parent charity Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said she was concerned about how effective it would be.
Single parents are bearing the brunt of rising childcare costs.
"The question now is when parents will be able to access this vital extra support, as the rollout of universal credit continues to be delayed," Ms Weir said.
The universal credit system is at the core of the Con-Dems' welfare shake-up and will roll up six of the current benefits all into one monthly allowance.
The new childcare proposal would contradict earlier government plans to cap nursing and childminding support at the personal tax allowance level of £10,000.
Under the new scheme anyone with a salary up to £150,000 could claim back 85 per cent of childcare costs.
Labour MP Lucy Powell said the subsidy was just "too little, too late."