Currently, depending on your circumstances, you can get two elements of help towards childcare – up to 30 hours free childcare for children aged between 2 and 4, and help with childcare costs (Tax-Free Childcare) if your child is under 16.
Gov.uk have a fantastic step-by-step guide to help you work out exactly what elements of childcare you can claim for.
Free education and childcare for two- to four-year-olds
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Universal Credit
- tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
- the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
- the Working Tax Credit four-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit).
Please note, the early education and childcare must be with an approved childcare provider to claim the free hours.
Recently, the government announced plans to expand this scheme, starting April 2024 (when eligible 2-year-olds will get 15 hours of free childcare per week), and growing in September 2024 to include children between nine months and two years. Finally in September 2025, it will be expanded again to cover 30 hours of childcare for eligible children between nine months and three years old. In addition, those families on universal credit will get childcare support upfront, rather than having to reclaim it. They will be able to claim £951 a month for childcare for one child and £1,630 for two.
It’s possible to get up to £500 every 3 months (to a total of £2,000 a year) for each of your children, in order to help with the costs of childcare. If you get Tax-Free Childcare, the government will contribute £2 for every £8 you pay your approved childcare provider via an online account. You can get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as 30 hours free childcare if you’re eligible for both. You can review the eligibility criteria and apply here.
If you get tax credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers
You can’t get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as claiming Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers. Which scheme you’re better off with depends on your situation. The government have a useful childcare calculator to help you work out which type of support is best for you.
If you are employed, your employer may be able to help you with childcare costs using vouchers or other schemes such as an employee nursery. Have a chat with them to see what they can offer.
If you’re under 20 at the start of a publicly-funded course, such as school or sixth form college, you could get weekly childcare payments through Care to Learn.
If you’re over 20 and in further education, you could apply for Discretionary Learner Support.
And if you are in full-time higher education, you can apply for a Childcare Grant if your child is under 15 (or under 17 if they have special needs).