Help paying for childcare

Information on childcare you can get help paying for.

1 Overview

The following pages cover some of the support that is available to help pay for childcare costs.

A childcare calculator is available to help you estimate how much help you might be entitled to.

Further information is also available on the Childcare Choices website.

2 Early Years Funded Entitlements

Children aged from nine months up to statutory school age may be entitled to funded early education and childcare.

For detailed information, including eligibility, how to apply and how to access a place see our pages on:

3 Tax-Free Childcare

Tax-Free Childcare is open to all eligible families with children under 12. It may also be available for children with disabilities up to the age of 17.

The government will pay £2.00 for every £8.00 you pay your childcare provider via an online account. This is up to the value of £2,000 per child per year (or £4,000 for a child with a disability).

If you are eligible for Tax-Free Childcare, you can apply through your government online childcare account. When applying for the Early Years Funded Entitlements (EYFE) for working families you will also be able to apply for Tax-Free Childcare at the same time if you are eligible for both schemes.

Tax-Free Childcare can be used alongside the EYFE to pay for additional childcare costs. Tax-Free Childcare payments can only be used to pay for extras, such as meals or trips, if they form part of the childcare cost arrangements.

You cannot use Tax-Free Childcare alongside:

  • tax credits
  • Universal Credit childcare
  • childcare vouchers

Steps to take to apply for and use Tax-Free Childcare

You can:

  • check if you are eligible on GOV.UK
  • apply via the government Gateway
  • check if your chosen childcare provider is signed up to receive Tax-Free Childcare payments
  • deposit money into your childcare account by debit card, standing order or bank transfer. The government top up will be added automatically and you can use this money when it shows as ‘available’
  • make payments to your childcare provider(s) using the money in your childcare account

To continue receiving the government top-up to your Tax-Free Childcare account, you must confirm your details are up to date every three months. You will receive a reminder to do this.

Providers who can accept Tax-Free Childcare

Childcare providers must be signed up to offer Tax-Free Childcare. If they are not signed up to offer this, they will be unable to accept a Tax-Free Childcare payment from you.

Only approved or registered childcare providers can sign up to accept Tax-Free Childcare.

You can find out more about the different types of childcare by visiting Childcare options.

4 Universal Credit childcare

You may be able to claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs if you are eligible for Universal Credit.

The most you can get back each month is:

  • £1,014.63 for one child
  • £1,739.37 for two or more children

You might also be able to get help with your initial upfront childcare costs to support you into employment or to increase your working hours.

If you are on Universal Credit and you need help with upfront childcare costs, contact your local Job Centre for more information.

Universal Credit Childcare can be used alongside the Early Years Funded Entitlements. It cannot be used alongside:

  • Tax-Free Childcare
  • tax credits
  • childcare vouchers

Eligibility

You need to be either in paid work or starting a job in the next month.

If you live with a partner, you both need to be in paid work, unless your partner cannot look after your children. You must also be eligible for Universal Credit.

What the costs can cover

Your childcare must be with a registered childcare providers. This means they are registered with Ofsted or a childminder agency.

You can find out more about the different types of childcare by visiting Childcare options.

Universal Credit childcare can only be used to pay for the cost of childcare. Extras, such as meals or trips, can only be claimed for if they form part of the childcare cost arrangements. Optional extras, such as meals and consumables that are provided as part of the Early Years Funded Entitlements (EYFE), will not be covered.

These costs may be itemised on your invoice from your childcare provider but will not be reimbursed to you as part of your Universal Credit childcare claim.

Visit our Funded Childcare pages to find out more about EYFE and optional extras and consumables.

View Universal Credit childcare costs to find out how to report your child costs and what evidence you need to provide.

Apply

For more information on how to apply for Universal Credit Childcare speak to your work coach or contact your local Job Centre

5 Care to Learn

The Care to Learn scheme can help with childcare costs while you study. You must be aged under 20 at the start of your course.

You can get up to:

  • £180 per child per week if you live outside London
  • £195 per child per week if you live in London

Care to Learn can be used alongside the Early Years Funded Entitlements (EYFE) as long as you meet the eligibility criteria for EYFE. Visit our Funded Childcare pages to find out more about EYFE eligibility.

Eligibility

You can get Care to Learn if all of the following apply to you:

  • you are a parent under 20 at the start of your course
  • you are the main carer for your child
  • you live in England
  • you are either a British citizen or have a legal right to live and study in England
  • your course qualifies
  • your childcare provider qualifies

Care to Learn is only available for publicly funded courses in England.

Eligible childcare providers

To qualify, your childcare provider must be either:

  • registered with Ofsted
  • registered with a childminder agency
  • registered with a school

You can find out more about the different types of childcare by visiting Childcare options.

Apply

You must choose your learning provider and childcare provider before you apply. You will then need to make a new application for each year you study.

Visit the Care to Learn (GOV.UK) to find out more about how to apply and what to expect once you have applied.

6 Additional information

Combining schemes

For more information on combining schemes, visit Childcare Choices.

Learner Support

You can apply for Learner Support to pay for childcare if you are 19 or over and in further education, for example, studying for an NVQ, BTEC or PGCE.

Childcare Grant

You can apply for a Childcare Grant if you are in full-time higher education to pay for childcare costs for children under 15 or under 17 if they have special needs.

Last updated:
17 July 2024
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