Help to pay for childcare

Last updated: 17/02/2020

Help to pay for childcare from tax credits and universal credit.

You may get help to pay for childcare costs as part of your tax credit or universal credit award. You can apply for childcare costs up to the September after your child’s 15th birthday, or 16th if the child is disabled and gets Disability Living Allowance, is registered blind or is partially sighted.

Tax Credits

Help to pay for registered childcare is available through the childcare element of working tax credit when you work at least 16 hours per week.

You could get 70% of registered childcare costs. The maximum you can get for one child is £122.50p/w (70% of £175) and £210p/w (70% of £300) for 2 or more children. The amount you get is also affected by your income.

For more details contact:

The Lone Parent Helpline
0808 801 0323

Universal Credit

You can have 85% of registered childcare costs paid if you get universal credit. The most you can be paid for one child is £646.35 per month or up to £1108.04 per month for two or more children. You can get help with childcare costs for children ever if you do not get universal credit for them because of the two child limit.Universal Credit childcare costs may be claimed up to a month before starting work If you have a firm job offer.

You can ask for early payments of universal credit through Advances and Budgeting Advances – both of these will have to be paid back.

There is no minimum number of hours you need to work to get help with childcare costs from universal credit but how much you get is affected by your earnings.

Tax-Free childcare

If you are working 16 or more hours per week and earn at least £120 per week, but less than £100,000 per year, you may be able to claim help with childcare costs through the Tax-free Childcare scheme.

You can claim for children up to the September after their 11th birthday or up to age 17 if they have a disability,

For every £8 you spend on childcare the government will refund £2 into an account you need to open online. Up to £2,000 per year can be refunded for each child or up to £4,000 if your child has a disability. Your childcare provider needs to be signed up to the scheme.

You cannot get tax-free childcare if you are already claiming child tax credit, working tax credit, universal credit or childcare vouchers. If you are getting one of these, and you apply for tax-free childcare, it will stop and you may be financially worse off.

For more information see:

Free early learning and childcare places

All parents of three and four year olds are entitled 600 hours per year free early learning and childcare. That is between 11 and 16 hours per week depending on the number of weeks you use childcare. Two year olds will also get these hours if you receive child tax credit and are not working, you get child tax credit and working tax credit and have an income under £6,530 or you get universal credit and your monthly take home pay is £610 or less.

From August 2020 the Scottish Government is increasing the number of free childcare hours to 1140 per year, 22 – 30 per week.

For more information and to see if you are eligible contact your local council or visit Parent Club.

Flexible Support Fund

Jobcentre plus has a Flexible Support Fund (FSF) that can be used to help you move into or remain in work. You can ask your work coach about applying for help from this fund for upfront childcare costs or for a taster session at the childcare service. This is a discretionary fund so you are not guaranteed help.

Help to pay childcare while studying

If you are studying full time you can apply for the Lone Parent Childcare Grant to help pay for registered childcare. If this is not enough or you are not eligible for it you can ask for help from the college or university discretionary funds. Ask at the college or university for details.