Schemes and funding to help with your childcare costs
You can get help with the costs of childcare for children under 18, this could include:
- Tax-Free Childcare
- funded childcare for 2-year-olds
- funded childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds (15 and 30 Hours)
- Tax credits and Universal Credit
- help while you study
- help from your employer
- help for family members caring for your child (Specified Adult Childcare credits)
Here’s an overview of each scheme and where to find out more and apply. You can also input your details into the Childcare Calculator to see which schemes you can claim.
Tax-Free Childcare is available to working families who earn at least 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage. It helps towards childcare costs for children under 12 years old.
You set up an online childcare account and used it to pay a registered childcare provider directly. For every £8 you pay into your account, the Government will add £2. You could get up to £2,000 per child, per year or up to £4,000 for disabled children.
If you're not getting a funded childcare place, Tax-Free Childcare could help towards your childcare costs. If you are receiving 15 or 30 hours funded childcare then Tax-Free Childcare could be used to pay for extra hours.
Check if you’re eligible for Tax-Free Childcare and apply online.
Funded childcare for 2-year-olds
15 hours of funded childcare per week is available for some 2-year-olds in term time if:
- you claim some benefits
- a child is looked after by a local council
- your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
- you get Disability Living Allowance
If you're eligible, you can take up this offer from the term after your child's second birthday.
Funded childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds
There are two parts to the funded childcare offer for 3 and 4-year-olds, 15 hours and 30 hours. 15 hours is known as the universal offer and 30 hours is known as the extended offer.
15 hours childcare - the universal offer available to everyone
All 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to attend a funded early education place from the term after their third birthday. That's 15 hours of funded childcare per week for 38 weeks.
30 hours childcare - the extended offer available to working families
30 hours gives working families an additional 15 hours on top of the 15 that's available to everyone. Your 3 or 4-year-old could be eligible for 30 hours funded childcare per week for 38 weeks if you (and a partner if you have one) earn at least 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage.
You can also get 30 hours if your partner is working and you get any of these:
- Incapacity Benefit
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.
Tax Credits and Universal Credit
Universal Credit is replacing Tax Credits and other benefits. For working families, Universal Credit can help with the costs of childcare, no matter how many hours you work.
You may be able to claim up to 85% of your childcare costs if you’re eligible for Universal Credit and meet some other conditions.
Help while you study
If you’re a parent or carer in education, you may be able to get additional help with childcare costs. What you can get depends on your age and the type of education you're in.
Under 20 and at school or sixth form
If you’re under 20 and caring for your own child you may be eligible for the Care to Learn scheme.
Care to Learn can help with your childcare costs, keeping your childcare place over the summer holidays and taking your child to their childcare provider.
If you’re in further education like college
If you’re aged 19 or over on a further education course and facing financial hardship, you could get Learner Support. You apply for Learner Support through your learning provider such as your college. How much you get depends on your circumstances.
If you're in Higher Education like university
You can apply for a Childcare Grant. If you’re:
- in full-time higher education such as undergraduate level
- eligible for student finance
- and have a child under 15 years of age or under 17 if they have special educational needs or a disability (SEND)
This grant is paid on top of your other student finance and does not have to be paid back.
Help from your employer
You can get help from your employer if they provide a workplace nursery, or if they arrange childcare for employees with a commercial provider themselves. This is called Directly Contracted Childcare.
Specified Adult Childcare credits
Specified Adult Childcare credits can transfer National Insurance (NI) credits from a parent or main carer, to a grandparent, or other family member caring for a child under 12.