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Childcare costs

Key information

If you are working, preparing to work or in education, you might get help with childcare costs.

Applies to: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland


Free Early Education

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free early education per week for 38 weeks of the year.

Children from 2 years old are entitled to the same amount of free early education if you are getting one of the following benefits:

Children from 2 years old are also eligible if they:

  • are looked after by the local authority
  • have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN)
  • have an education, health and care plan (EHCP)
  • receive Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care through special guardianship or an adoption or child arrangements order

Contact your local authority for further details about Free Early Education or see the GOV.UK website free childcare information.

Help with Childcare Costs - In work

If you are working, you may be able to get help with childcare costs through the following sources:

If your employer offers you childcare vouchers, you may want to know if you would be better off having the vouchers or claiming help with childcare costs through the Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit. To check this, you can use the childcare cost calculator (link opens in a new window) on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website.

From Autumn 2015, the Employer Supported Childcare scheme will be replaced by a new Tax-Free Childcare scheme.

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Help with Childcare Costs - Looking for work

If you are looking for work, you may be able to get help with some expenses, for example, to enable you to attend interviews, through a discretionary Jobcentre Plus fund called the Flexible Support Fund.

Ask your local JobCentre Plus office (link opens in a new window) for more information about this and any other schemes they may run to help you into work.

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Help with Childcare Costs - Studying

If you are in education, you may be able to get help with childcare costs see Benefits and students for more details

Also see the GOV.UK page on help with childcare costs when studying to find out about Discretionary Learner Support, Learn to Care payments and Childcare Grants.

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Last updated: 1 September 2014

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