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Benefits Update: May 2017

Latest news on childcare and Housing Benefit

Free childcare increased

Many parents are sorting out childcare now, ahead of the next term start in September 2017.  It’s a good time to plan – there can be fierce competition for nursery places, which can be booked up to 6 months in advance.

There will be more childcare available for young children from September 2017 onwards, following the introduction of the 30 hours free childcare for working families.

15 hours for three and four year olds

All three and four year olds are already entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week during term-time (38 weeks of the year) or 570 hours to use flexibly over the year.  Some two year olds can get 15 hours free childcare too, if their parents are receiving certain benefits.  Read more about who qualifies on our Help with Childcare Costs page

To book your child’s free nursery school place, contact your local council. You can find their website using the Find your local council page of the website

30 hours for three and four year olds

From September 2017, you could get an extra 15 hours of free childcare a week, on top of the 15 hours already available, if you are working and earning enough.  Your 30 hours per week can be used for term time (for 38 weeks of the year) or you can use 1,140 hours flexibly throughout the year.

If you’re a lone parent, you can get the 30 hours per week for your three or four year old if you are earning over the threshold. The threshold is set at the amount you would get for 16 hours per week at national minimum wage. For people aged 25 or over, this is £120 per week (£112.80 per week for 21-24 year olds, £89.60 per week for 18-20 year olds and £64.80 per week for under 18 year olds).

If you’re a couple, you can get the 30 hours per week for your three or four year old if you are both working and each of you is earning over the threshold. You could also qualify if one of you is working and earning over the threshold and the other one is unable to work because they are ill or disabled, or because they are caring for a disabled person.

To check whether you qualify and to apply for your child’s nursery school place (for 30 hours per week), visit the Access childcare support through the childcare service page of the website

Other help with childcare costs

These schemes can help with costs paid to a registered childcare provider, but you can only use one scheme at a time:

To find out which schemes you qualify for, you can visit the Government’s Childcare Choices website or click on the links above to read more about each scheme on the Turn2us website.

Housing Benefit goes unclaimed by half of workers entitled to it

People are finding it harder to make ends meet and keep their homes, even though more are working.  And yet, billions in benefits are still going unclaimed by people who are in work.

According to reports by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation[1], in-work poverty, housing insecurity and living costs have been rising and will continue to rise.

With so many people just about managing, or even struggling, benefits like Housing Benefit could make all the difference.  The latest estimates from the Department for Work and Pensions show that in 2014/15, only 55% of the people who were entitled to Housing Benefit whilst in work actually claimed it.[2]

Around 880,000 working families didn’t claim the Housing Benefit they were entitled to in 2014/15. Families that didn’t claim their entitlement lost out on an average of £3,000 for the year.

Housing Benefit is for people who have to pay rent.  The amount you get depends on your income, but you may still be entitled if you’re working.

Housing Benefit is one of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit, so some people may have to claim Universal Credit instead, depending on where they are living.  Even on Universal Credit, they could still be entitled to some money towards their rent, if their income is low enough.

You can check how much Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you could be entitled to using our Benefits Calculator.

Read our Housing Benefit (England, Scotland, Wales) information

Read our Housing Benefit (Northern Ireland) information

Read our Universal Credit information

[1] Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 2016. In-work poverty hits record high as the housing crisis fuels insecurity [ONLINE] [Accessed 10 May 2017] & Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 2017. Households below a minimum income standard: 2008/09 to 2014/15 [ONLINE][Accessed 10 May 2017]

[2] Department for Work and Pensions. 2016. Income-Related Benefits: Estimates of Take-Up, 2014/15 [ONLINE] [Accessed 10 May 2017]