If you are a working parent, then you may have a family member who you can rely on for free childcare. Otherwise, you are likely to have to pay for childcare. This can be very expensive, especially if you have more than one child to pay for. However, there are several ways that you can get help with the cost of childcare. Read the guide below to find the best solution for you.
Get 15 Hours Free Childcare (2-year-olds)
If you have a 2-year-old child and you live in England, then you could get 15 hours per week of free childcare for them. This covers early education for 38 weeks. You can stretch the total of 570 hours per year across 52 weeks if you need to by using fewer hours per week. You should be able to use the hours with approved nurseries, schools, childminders, playgroups, or Sure Start Children’s Centres. However, you will have to pay additional fees for meals or additional activities, or other consumable resources such as nappies. You can start using the free hours from the term after the child’s 2nd birthday (1st January, 1st April, or 1st September). To be eligible you must receive:
- Income Support
- Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit (with a combined work income of £15,400 or less per year after tax deductions)
- Tax Credits (with an income of £16,190 or less per year before tax)
- State Pension Credit (Guaranteed Element)
- support through the Immigration and Asylum Act (Part 6)
- Working Tax Credit (4-week run on)
Your child may also be eligible for this free childcare if they have an SEN (Special Educational Needs plan) or they get Disability Living Allowance.
Get 15 Hours Free Childcare (3-year-olds and 4-year-olds)
Even if you are not receiving any of the benefits listed above, you will still be eligible for 15 hours of free childcare per week once your child turns 3 years old. You can start to claim this from the beginning of the school term after the child’s 3rd birthday. The free childcare will last until the child joins a Reception class or turns 5 years old, whichever comes first. All families can claim this free childcare for 3 to 4-year-olds, but the same restrictions will apply. It must be through an approved childcare provider and does not cover additional costs such as meals, consumable care equipment, and day trips.
Get 30 Hours Free Childcare (3-year-olds and 4-year-olds)
Some working parents with 3 to 4-year-old children could get 30 hours of free childcare a week instead of 15. This adds up to a total of 1,140 hours of free childcare for the year. Either the sole parent or both parents must be working and have a certain level of income for their child to be eligible. If each parent earns more than £100,000 a year then they will not be able to get 30 hours of free childcare. To get 30 hours, each parent must work at least 16 hours per week and earn a minimum of £131 per week. Again, the child can begin free childcare from the term following their 3rd birthday. You can use the 30 hours with any approved daycare, school, after-school club, or children’s centre, and spread them across more than one provider.
Get Tax-Free Childcare (up to 11 years old)
On top of 15 hours or 30 hours of free childcare, you could claim tax-free childcare if you are eligible. You cannot claim it alongside Tax Credits or Universal Credit. To be eligible, your children must be under 12 years old and parents must work for at least 16 hours a week with an income of at least £131 per week. For every £8 you pay into a registered account, the government will pay £2 towards childcare costs. You can receive up to £2,000 per child per year, or up to 4,000 for a child with a disability. This can go towards paying for registered childminders, nurseries, or schools.
Get Tax Credits for Childcare (up to 15 years old)
Existing Tax Credits claimants can also claim back up to 70% of childcare costs for children under 16 years old. The amount that you can claim back depends on your income. The maximum amount is £122.50 a week for one child or £210 a week for two or more children. Tax credits for childcare can help to pay for registered nurseries, nannies, schools, groups and clubs. As Universal Credit is replacing Tax Credits, you can no longer make a claim for this if you haven’t already done so. You could claim Universal Credit instead. If you do receive tax credits for childcare, you cannot get tax-free childcare.
Get Universal Credit for Childcare (up to 16 years old)
Working families can claim up to 85% of childcare costs for children under 17 years old as part of a Universal Credit claim. To be eligible, you and your partner must both be working and claiming Universal Credit. The cap goes up to £646 a month for one child and £1,108 a month for two more children. You can use this benefit to pay for registered nurseries, schools, nannies, or after-school clubs and playgroups. You cannot claim Universal Credit if you are already claiming Tax Credits. Wait until this replaces them in your area.
Get Childcare Support While Studying
If you need help to pay for childcare because you are attending school, or studying for higher education, then there are several options. The Care to Learn scheme offers weekly payments for students under 20 years old on publicly-funded courses. This includes schools and sixth forms. You could get up to £160 per child with this scheme. If you are over 20 years old and pursuing further education, you could apply for a Discretionary Learner Support payment from your learning provider. The Education and Skills Funding Agency must be funding your college, and you cannot apply if you are already receiving student finance. Full-time higher education students with children under 15 years old can apply for a Childcare Grant on top of their undergraduate student finance. The Childcare Grant will cover 85% of your childcare costs up to a fixed amount. In the 2019-2020 academic year, this is a maximum of £169.31 per week for 1 child or £290.27 for 2 or more.