Paying for childcare

Financial support for you and your family

There are many different kinds of financial support available to help you and your family pay for childcare. Whether you are working full time, have a part time job or are self employed, there may be some financial help available for you towards your childcare costs. The support available to you will depend on your circumstances.

Below, we have listed the support you may be entitled to and how to find out more about it.

If you would like further advice or information about paying for childcare or about your rights when returning to work contact our family information team:

Free early education for three to four year olds 
Free early education for two year olds
All families
Working families
Parents who are studying
Families living with disabilities or special educational needs

All families

Child benefit

All parents and carers, whatever their income and savings can claim Child Benefit. It is usually paid for each child under 16 (or under 20 if in education or training). The amount depends on the age of the child, but is usually paid every 4 weeks.

Child Tax Credit

All parents and carers, whatever their income and savings, can claim child tax credits. It is paid if you are responsible for at least one child or young person who normally lives with you. You don’t have to be working to claim Child Tax Credit. The amount you get will depend on your circumstances and income, if you live with your partner your incomes will be added together when your claim is assessed.

Free early education

All three and four year olds and some two year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education each week for 38 weeks of the year. 

Free early years entitlement for three-four year olds is available to all parents and carers, whatever their income and savings.

Free early years entitlement for two year olds is available to families who are eligible to claim certain benefits or receive Working Tax Credit and earn no more than £16,190. Children looked after by the council, children with additional needs, children of serving armed forces personnel and Travellers may also be eligible.

Working families

Tax-Free Childcare

Tax Free Childcare is an online payment account, topped up by the Government, which parents use solely to pay their childcare costs. For every £8 that families pay in, the Government will make a top-up payment of £2, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year (or £4,000 for disabled children).

Tax-Free Childcare will be available for children under 12 years old (or 17 if they're registered as having a disability) and can be used to contribute towards Ofsted registered childcare. To be eligible, parents must be in work (including self-employment) and each earning at least £120 per week and not more than £100,000 per year. The offer will be introduced to parents with the youngest children first and gradually rolled out so that all parents will be able to apply by the end of 2017.

Working parents of children, who will be aged under 4 on 31 August 2017, can now apply through the childcare service (external link).

Childcare providers must have signed up to be able to receive payments from Tax-Free Childcare. Parents can check which providers in their area are ready, using the childcare provider checker (external link).

30 hours free childcare

30 hours childcare for three and four year olds will be available from September 2017. This doubles the existing 15 hours currently available and could save working families up to £5,000 a year. Parents of children who will be 3 on 31 August can apply now.

Working Tax Credit

You can get Working Tax Credit if:

  • you're aged 16 or over
  • you work a certain number of hours a week
  • you get paid for the work you do (or expect to)
  • your income is below a certain level

It is based on the hours you work and get paid for or expect to be paid for. You can claim if you work for someone else or if you're self employed. You get a basic amount and extra (known as elements) on top of this. How much you get depends on things like your circumstances and income. Money is paid directly into your bank or building society account.

Childcare element of Working Tax Credit

Parents and carers who work 16 hours or more a week and pay for Ofsted registered childcare are entitled to the childcare element of working tax credits. It can be worth up to 70% of your childcare costs depending on your income and the cost of your childcare.

Childcare vouchers

If you work, make national insurance contributions and pay income tax, your employer may offer you childcare vouchers to help with childcare costs. They could be in return for a reduction in your pay - known as a salary sacrifice.

Childcare vouchers may affect the amount of tax credits you can get.

  • www.hmrc.gov.uk/calcs/ccin.htm This online calculator can help you decide whether - overall - you would be better off taking childcare vouchers or not.

Parents who are studying

Care to Learn

Teenage parents aged under 20 are entitled to help from care to learn. This includes financial support for the costs of your childcare so that you can continue your education or training. Childcare costs are paid direct to the childcare provider.

Discretionary Learner Support

Students aged 19 or over who are attending a further education college can apply for Discretionary Learner Support. This can help with accommodation, travel, course materials and equipment.

You must be 20 or over to get help with childcare costs. If you’re 19, you can apply for Care to Learn instead.

You can apply at your college by speaking to the student support or welfare officer.

Hardship fund/bursaries

Students facing extreme financial difficulties may be able to apply for a hardship fund/bursary. Some colleges and universities offer this help if you're facing extreme financial difficulties. They are usually one off payments that you do not have to repay. Speak to the student services or welfare officer at your university.

Childcare Grant

Full time students with a child aged up to 15 (or 17 if your child has special needs) can apply for a Childcare Grant. It is based on your personal circumstances. The grant can cover up to 85% of your registered childcare costs for 52 weeks of the year and is paid in three instalments and does not have to be repaid. You cannot get this grant if you claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit.

  • Student finance: 0845 300 5090

Parents' Learning allowance

Full time students can apply for Parents' Learning Allowance. It supports you with course related costs such as childcare, travel, books, and equipment. The amount you receive will depend on your circumstances and is paid in three instalments alongside your student loan. You will not have to repay it.

  • Student finance: 0845 300 5090

Access to Learning Fund

Full and part time students may apply for an Access to Learning Fund which is available through your university or college. It provides extra financial support to help you stay on a course if the Childcare Grant does not cover all the costs of your childcare. The amount you receive will depend on your circumstances. Speak to the student services or welfare officer at your university or college.

Professional and Career Development Loans 

Professional and Career Development Loans are available to students aged 18 or over who are on a vocational course. It covers two years of study whilst you are in education or job related training - plus up to one year's practical experience, if this is part of the course. It can be used to pay for childcare costs.

Educational or charitable trusts funding

Full and part time students aged 16 or over are able to apply for educational or charitable trusts funding. It provides limited funding for individual students.

NHS student grants and bursaries

Students studying an NHS accredited course may apply for a NHS Student Grant or Bursary. They are a range of bursaries, fee payments and grants. Some are based on your income and savings, some are not.

Families living with disabilities or special educational needs 

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment is available for people aged 16 to 64 with a long term health condition or disability. You’ll need an assessment to work out the level of help you get. It is a monthly cash benefit from the Department for Work and Pensions for people who have a disability and need help with personal care (daily living component), getting around (mobility component) or both. Decisions are based on how your condition affects you, not the condition you have.

  • New claim line: 0800 917 2222
  • Text phone: 0800 917 7777

Direct payments for adults or children with a disability

Direct payments for adults or children with a disability provides money to pay for services and equipment personally, instead of having them arranged by your local authority. These payments may be provided by social services after an assessment process. It can be very useful in allowing you to shape your own childcare package, including support and services that are not routinely provided by community care services.

  • Direct Payments Support Service: 01772 535 683

If you already receive social care services and would like to receive direct payments: 0300 123 6720.

If you need independent help with your caring role and want to talk to someone about the options available to you call carers direct helpline: 0808 802 0202.

Disabled child element of Child Tax Credit

Disabled child element of Child Tax Credit may be available to you if you receive Personal Independence Payment for your child, Personal Independence Payment has stopped for your child because they are a patient in hospital or your child is registered (or certified) as blind, or has come off the blind register in the last 28 weeks. It provides extra support if you are claiming Personal Independence Payment for your child.

Related websites

  • Childcare Choices
    Find out if you're eligible for government help with childcare costs, including 15 to 30 hours free childcare, Tax-Free Childcare, tax credits, Universal Credit, vouchers and support while you study.
  • Childcare calculator