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Help with childcare costs

With family budgets being increasingly squeezed by the high cost of living read our guide to the help available for parents struggling with childcare costs.

Mum, dad and two daughters

In Work

If you are a working parent you may be able to get help with childcare costs through the following;

From early 2017, the Employer Supported Childcare scheme will be replaced by a new Tax-Free Childcare scheme. Under this new scheme, the Government will contribute 20p for every £1 of the first £10,000 in childcare costs, per child, per year.

Tax-free Childcare is expected to help five times as many working parents in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales because it will cover the self-employed, as well as those working part-time, on paid sick leave and on paid and unpaid statutory maternity, paternity or adoption leave, The Government will provide help with childcare costs for the first time. To find out more see our Tax-free Childcare information guide.

Looking for work

If you are looking for work you may be eligible for help from Jobcentre Plus’ Flexible Support Fund. This can assist with childcare or replacement care costs when you attend an employer/provider or jobcentre adviser interview, or a Jobcentre Plus approved activity. Your   local Jobcentre Plus office should be able to provide more information about this. When participating in the Work Programme, you will be eligible for help with childcare/replacement care costs from the Work Programme provider.


If you are studying, depending on the course, they may be able to apply for a Childcare Grant or Care to Learn payments. It is also worth checking with your college to see if you qualify for the Discretionary Learner Support scheme which could assist with your childcare costs.

To find childcare and family services in your area see the Family and Childcare Trust website and you can also contact your local authority to obtain details.

Use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits income which could help with the cost of childcare.

Coronavirus Information

My child's school is closing due to the coronavirus outbreak. What can I do?

The government has announced that schools will be closing for the majority of students from 20 March 2020.

Children in the following groups will still be able to go to school if their parents choose to send them:

  • The children of key workers
  • Children receiving support from social services
  • Children with disabilities
  • Children with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs​)
  • Young carers

If you need to take time off work to care for your children, you should check your employment rights on the ACAS website.

What if I am well but my employer tells me not to work because of the coronavirus outbreak?

This will depend on your contract and is an employment law issue. You may be able to get advice from ACAS on this. You will not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

What if I have been in contact with someone with coronavirus and don’t want to go to work and risk infecting my colleagues and customers?

You will only be able to get special help under the coronavirus rules if you are self-isolating in accordance with NHS advice. You can find the current NHS coronavirus advice on the NHS website

What if I am not getting any customers in my self-employed business because of the coronavirus?

You may be able to claim Universal Credit, but you will not be entitled to any special support because of the coronavirus outbreak. You may have the minimum income floor applied to your claim, or you may be required to look for full time-employment.

I’m on a zero-hours contract, will I get paid if I’m told to self isolate?

If you are self-isolating in accordance with NHS guidance and you usually earn at least £120 per week, you should get Statutory Sick Pay even if you are on a zero hours contract.

What if I am homeless with no income so can’t self-isolate and need funds for accommodation?

The government has not published any guidance for what you should do if you are homeless and develop coronavirus symptoms. It would be best to contact your local authority for advice. You should do so by telephone if at all possible.