Help with childcare costs

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There are a number of schemes and support available to help parents pay for the cost of childcare

All 3 and 4-year-olds and some 2-year- olds are entitled to a certain amount of free early education and childcare. This is known as the Free Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) which is a government grant.

Working parents Click to get info

30 hours of free childcare

Working families who meet certain criteria can claim 30 hours free childcare per week, along with the Universal Free Childcare Entitlement for 3 and 4- year olds.  

Find out more about the 30 hours Free Childcare Entitlement

Tax-Free Childcare

Tax-Free Childcare is a government scheme to help working families with their childcare costs.

Parents will be able to open an online childcare account to pay their registered childcare providers directly. For every £8 a parent pays into their account, the government will add £2.

Parents can get up to £2,000 a year and £4,000 for parents who have a disabled child, towards their childcare costs.

In order to qualify your child:

  • is under 12, or 17 if they're registered as having a disability
  • usually lives with you

You (and your partner, if you have one):

  • are 16 or over
  • are employed or self-employed
  • earn at least £139 a week and not more than £100,000 per year per parent (only one parent must be working in a lone parent family)
  • are not receiving Tax Credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers

How to apply for Tax-Free Childcare

You need to apply online by setting up a childcare account on GOV.UK. You can do this at the same time as applying for the 30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4-year olds.  You need to reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. You should get a reminder message to do this. You can reconfirm your eligibility using your online childcare account. If your circumstances have not changed you can simply confirm this. If they have changed, they will re-run the eligibility checks.

Universal Credit for Childcare

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

You (and your partner if you live with them) will usually need to either:

  • be working - it does not matter how many hours you or your partner work
  • have a job offer

If you’re eligible you will be able to claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs up to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1,108 for two or more children.

Get more Universal Credit information and apply on GOV.UK

Please note that you cannot claim the Universal Credit the same time as Tax-Free Childcare.


Student parents Click to get info

Care to Learn

Care to Learn can help parents aged under 20 with registered childcare costs while they study. It can also help with associated travel costs. Eligible parents can receive up to £160 per child per week (£175 living inside London) towards the cost of childcare.

Get more Care to Learn information on GOV.UK

Childcare Grant

You may be eligible for help with your learning costs if you:

  • are a full-time higher education student
  • have children under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs

The grant:

  • doesn’t have to be paid back
  • is paid on top of your other student finance

You must be eligible for student finance to apply for a Childcare Grant.

Get more Childcare Grant information on GOV.UK

Discretionary Learner Support

You can apply for Discretionary Learner Support to pay for childcare if you are 19 or over and in further education, for example, if you are studying for an NVQ, BTEC or PGCE. How much you get depends on your circumstances.

University and college hardship funds

You could get extra money from your university or college if you are experiencing financial hardship. Contact the student services department at your university or college. They decide if you qualify and the amount you get.

Disability Living Allowance

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children may help with the additional costs of looking after a child living with a disability. Your child may qualify for DLA if they have a physical disability and/or special education needs (SEN), and require more help or supervision, than other children of the same age who don’t have a disability.

Get more DLA information on GOV.UK

Universal Credit Disabled Child Element

If your child is disabled or has a long-term health condition, you may be able to claim the disabled child element as part of your Universal Credit payment.

The rate of disabled child element you get will depend on the rate of DLA you are getting for them.

You will get the higher rate (£400.29 per month in 2020-21) if your child is:

  • already getting the DLA higher rate care component
  • registered blind

You’ll get the lower rate (£128.25 per month in 2020-21) if your child is getting all other rates of DLA.

If you’re claiming DLA for a sick or disabled child, the amount you’re getting can affect your Universal Credit payment.

Carer's Allowance

Carer’s Allowance is money for people who look after someone with substantial caring needs. You don’t have to be related to or live with the person you care for. You must be 16 or over and spend at least 35 hours a week caring for them.

Get more Carers Allowance information on GOV.UK

Direct Payments

Direct Payments are a way of arranging services for disabled children and young people and their families. Direct payments can be made to those with parental responsibility for a disabled child, letting parents choose and buy the services they need. The council decides if a child is eligible by carrying out an assessment of needs.

As a parent you can use direct payments to buy a placement at a nursery offering specialist support, for short breaks, equipment, personal care or to provide assistance in order for your child to attend an activity or after school club.

Apply for Direct Payments on GOV.UK

Tax-Free Childcare for disabled children

Under the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, the Government contributes 20 per cent of the cost of each child's childcare, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year. However, the maximum payment for a standard three-month entitlement period is doubled to £4,000 for disabled children. This means that a parent with a disabled child will be able to pay up to £16,000 into their childcare account per year and receive top-up payments of up to £4,000.

Get more information on Tax Free Childcare on GOV.UK