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Help with Childcare Costs - Childcare Costs: Frequently Asked Questions

Read our guide to the help that is available with childcare costs if you are working, studying or starting to work or study.

Childcare Costs: Frequently Asked Questions

England

I live in England and I (and my partner) work – which schemes can we use?

If your child is 3 or 4, you will be able to get at least 15 and maybe as much as 30 hours per week free childcare for your child. The 15 hour scheme is run by your local council but the 30 hour scheme is managed through a centralised, online application.

If your child is 2, you might be able to get 15 hours free childcare if your earnings are low.

You might also be able to access help with the childcare costs you do need to pay.

If you are already getting help with childcare costs through Working Tax Credit or childcare vouchers, you can carry on getting it.

If you need to make a new claim, you can use either the Tax Free Childcare scheme or help through Universal Credit. Most people who are entitled to Universal Credit will be better off getting help with their childcare costs through Universal Credit instead of through the Tax Free Childcare scheme. You can compare it by using the Gov.UK help with childcare calculator to see how much help you’d get through the Tax Free Childcare scheme and the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to see how much help you’d get through Universal Credit.

I live in England and I (and my partner) don’t work – which schemes can we use?

If your child is aged 2, 3 or 4, you will be able to get 15 hours per week free childcare. You can apply for this through your local council.

You won’t usually be able to get help with childcare costs through Universal Credit while you’re not working but if you’re getting statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay, you’ll be treated as if you are working. 

You can’t use the Tax Free Childcare scheme if you’re not working.

If you are looking to move into work and need help paying childcare costs to enable you to do, so you should ask your work coach about accessing support through the flexible Flexible Support Fund.

Scotland

I live in Scotland and I (and my partner) work – which schemes can we use?

If your child is 3 or 4, you will be able to get at least 600 hours per year of free childcare. Some local councils offer more than this. 

If your child is 2, you might be able to get 600 or more hours of free childcare for them if your earnings are low.

If you are already getting help with childcare costs through Working Tax Credit or childcare vouchers, you can carry on getting it.

If you need to make a new claim, you can use either the Tax Free Childcare scheme or help through Universal Credit. Most people who are entitled to Universal Credit will be better off getting help with their childcare costs through Universal Credit instead of through the Tax Free Childcare scheme. You can compare it by using the Gov.UK help with childcare calculator to see how much help you’d get through the Tax Free Childcare scheme and the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to see how much help you’d get through Universal Credit.

I live in Scotland and I (and my partner) don’t work – which schemes can I use?

If your child is 3 or 4 you will be able to get at least 600 hours per year of free childcare. Some local councils offer more than this. 

If your child is 2, you might be able to get 600 or more hours of free childcare for them, depending on which benefits you’re claiming.

You won’t usually be able to get help with childcare costs through Universal Credit while you’re not working but if you’re getting statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay, you’ll be treated as if you are working. 

You can’t use the Tax Free Childcare scheme if you’re not working.

If you are looking to move into work and need help paying childcare costs to enable you to do so, you should ask your work coach about accessing support through the Flexible Support Fund.

Wales

I live in Wales and I (and my partner) work – which schemes can I use?

If your child is 3 or 4 years old, you will be able to access 10 hours per week of free education. You might be able to access up to a total of 30 hours per week free education and childcare if you (and your partner) each earn more than the equivalent of 16 times the national minimum wage per week and neither of you earns more than £100,000 per year. 

If your child is 2, you might be able to access a Flying Start scheme place. This depends on your postcode. Contact your local council to find out if you’re eligible.

You might also be able to access help with the childcare costs you do need to pay.

If you are already getting help with childcare costs through Working Tax Credit or childcare vouchers, you can carry on getting it.

If you need to make a new claim, you can use either the Tax Free Childcare scheme or help through Universal Credit. Most people who are entitled to Universal Credit will be better off getting help with their childcare costs through Universal Credit instead of through the Tax Free Childcare scheme. You can compare it by using the Gov.UK help with childcare calculator to see how much help you’d get through the Tax Free Childcare scheme and the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to see how much help you’d get through Universal Credit.

I live in Wales and I (and my partner) don’t work – which schemes can I use?

If your child is 3 or 4 years old, you will be able to access 10 hours per week of free education.

If your child is 2, you might be able to access a Flying Start scheme place. This depends on your postcode. Contact your local council to find out if you’re eligible.

You won’t usually be able to get help with childcare costs through Universal Credit while you’re not working but if you’re getting statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay, you’ll be treated as if you are working. 

You can’t use the Tax Free Childcare scheme if you’re not working.

If you are looking to move into work and need help paying childcare costs to enable you to do so, you should ask your work coach about accessing support through the Flexible Support Fund.

Northern Ireland

I live in Northern Ireland and I (and my partner) work  - which schemes can I use?

If your child is aged 2 or 3, depending on your local provider’s eligibility rules, you might be able to access 10.5 hours per week of Early Education 

You might also be able to access help with the childcare costs you do need to pay.

If you are already getting help with childcare costs through Working Tax Credit or childcare vouchers, you can carry on getting it.

If you need to make a new claim, you can use either the Tax Free Childcare scheme or help through Universal Credit. Most people who are entitled to Universal Credit will be better off getting help with their childcare costs through Universal Credit instead of through the Tax Free Childcare scheme. You can compare it by using the Gov.UK help with childcare calculator to see how much help you’d get through the Tax Free Childcare scheme and the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to see how much help you’d get through Universal Credit.

I live in Northern Ireland and I (and my partner) don’t work  - which schemes can I use?

If your child is aged 2 or 3, depending on your local provider’s eligibility rules, you might be able to access 10.5 hours per week of Early Education 

You won’t usually be able to get help with childcare costs through Universal Credit while you’re not working but if you’re getting statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or sick pay you’ll be treated as if you are working. 

You can’t use the Tax Free Childcare scheme if you’re not working.

If you are looking to move into work and need help paying childcare costs to enable you to do so, you should ask your work coach about accessing support through the Flexible Support Fund.

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