Help with childcare costs
Paying for childcare
There is a range of benefits and funds that can help towards the cost of childcare when a parent or carer is working, training or volunteering. To get help, the childcare must be registered or approved.
If you claim Working Tax Credit (WTC), you may be able to get help with childcare costs while you work. To get this help, the childcare must be with a registered childminder, eligible nursery, children's centre, pre-school playgroup, breakfast or after-school club, holiday scheme, approved home carer or registered nanny.
Who can claim?
You can have help with childcare included when your Working Tax Credit claim is calculated if you are:
- a lone parent working 16 or more hours a week
- a couple and both of you work for 16 hours or more per week
- a couple and one of you works for 16 or more hours a week and the other suffers from ill health (special rules apply)
You can also have help with childcare included when your Working Tax Credit claim is calculated if you are in a couple where one adult works for 16 or more hours a week and the other is entitled to Carer's Allowance. This is a new exception which enables these couples to claim tax credits to cover childcare costs.
You can claim up to the September after your child's 15th birthday (or 16th birthday for children with special needs).
What you get
You can get help towards childcare costs of up to £175 per week for one child or £300 for two or more children. How much help you get depends on your circumstances.
Payment is made to the main carer of the children together with Child Tax Credit. In some cases it will just be included in the Child Tax Credit.
How to claim
You claim help with childcare costs as part of your Working Tax Credit claim. Ring the Tax Credits Helpline for help.
You must tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) within one month if your childcare ends, or the average costs change by more than £10 a week for four weeks or more. Try to do this in writing and keep a copy.
Remember to tell HMRC if you pay for childcare during holiday periods, even if you don't have any costs during term-time.
Parents/carers can get up to £500 every 3 months (£2,000 a year) for each of your children to help with the costs of childcare.
If you get Tax-Free Childcare, the government will pay £2 for every £8 you pay your childcare provider via an online account.
You can use it to pay for approved childcare.
You can get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as 30 hours free childcare if you’re eligible for both.
You and your partner
You can usually get Tax-Free Childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:
- in work - or getting parental leave, sick leave or annual leave
- each earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week - this is £125.28 if you’re 25 or over
This earnings limit does not apply if you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago.
You’re not eligible if:
- your child does not usually live with you
- the child is your foster child
- either you or your partner has a taxable income over £100,000
- you’re from outside the EEA and your UK residence card says you cannot access public funds
To apply, visit the childcare choices website
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support
If you pay for approved childcare, it is also worth checking if you can get Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support. Up to £175 of your earnings can be ignored for one child (up to £300 for two or more children).
If you pay childcare costs and do not already get these benefits, it is worth checking if you can claim.
If you have any other questions, contact the Welfare Rights Service or the Families Information Service.
Care to Learn
Young parents under 20 may qualify for help with their childcare costs if they are returning to education, training or voluntary work.
Funding is available for both help with childcare costs and some other associated costs.
Contact Care to Learn
Further and higher education childcare funds
Local further education or higher education colleges receive learner support funds that are available to support their students' childcare costs.
These funds are limited and students should approach their college as soon as possible to get advice about this.
Contact the student support team at your college or university for more information.
Jobcentre Plus can advise and assist financially in a number of ways to support the transition from benefits to education, training and employment.
Parents, particularly lone parents, should discuss with their Jobcentre Plus advisor about any possible help before any commitment is made to training and to ensure that they access all the financial and other support that they are entitled to.
Find your nearest Jobcentre Plus