Last updated: 10 January 2024
Next review: 10 January 2025
Free early education and childcare for 2, 3, and 4 year olds
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.
Help for working parents
30 hours of free childcare
Working families who meet certain criteria can claim 30 hours of free childcare per week, along with the Universal Free Childcare Entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds.
Tax-Free Childcare is a government scheme to help working families with their childcare costs.
Parents can 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.
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
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 of free childcare for 3 and 4-year olds
- You must reconfirm your eligibility/details every 3 months (you will receive a reminder message)
Universal Credit for Childcare
If you are working, 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 percent of your childcare costs if you’re eligible for Universal Credit and meet some additional conditions. The amounts you can receive in childcare costs are:
- a maximum of £646.35 per month for one child
- a maximum of £1108.04 per month for 2 or more children
Childcare support is currently paid in arrears. This means that you will usually pay the costs yourself, and Universal Credit will then pay you some of that money back.
You can't claim Universal Credit at the same time as:
- Tax credits
- Tax-Free Childcare
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.
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
- 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.
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.
Parents of disabled children
Inclusion funding for under-fives
If your child is attending an early years or childcare provision in Waltham Forest, your provider may be able to apply to the council for additional funding. It does not cover the cost of the standard childcare fees but may be able to help if your child requires additional support due to their disability or special educational need.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
For disabled children the maximum payment for a standard three-month entitlement period is doubled to £4,000. 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.