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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:

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

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.

Apply for funded childcare for your 2-year-old

Funded 15 hours childcare for your 2-year-old

15 hours of childcare is available to working parents.

You could get 15 hours childcare if :

You will also get 15 hours if:

  • you are on sick leave or annual leave
  • you are on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave
  • one person is working and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have an assessment as having limited capability to work
  • you are newly self-employed (called the ‘start-up period’). You do not need to demonstrate that you meet the income criteria for 12 months

Apply for 15 hours childcare for your 2-year-old

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.

Take up 15 hours childcare for your 3 or 4-year old

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.

Apply for 30 hours childcare for your 3 or 4-year old

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.

Visit the Family and Childcare Trust for more information.

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.

Disability access fund

Your child’s early years provider could get £828 or more per year to help with their education and support.

This will be paid directly to your early years provider. If a child attends more than one setting, funding is paid to the childcare provider nominated by the parent/carer.

You can apply to get disability access funding if your child is aged 3 or 4 and you’re receiving both:

To apply for disability access funding speak to your childcare provider.

In Buckinghamshire payments are made in the term a child first becomes eligible and takes up an early education funded place and is then paid again on the first anniversary if the child is still in the setting. 

Your childcare provider should identify eligible children through conversations with parents and carers and record them on the Parent/Provider agreement form (PPA-U or PPA-E) that they have seen evidence to show the child receives DLA. Your provider should send a copy of this evidence to the Early Years Funding Team.