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Help with childcare costs

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

Free Early Education

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

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

Children from two 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.

The Government has announced that from 2017, it will extend the scheme for three and four-year olds to 30 hours free childcare for parents living in England, who work more than 16 hours a week and earn less than £100,000 a year. The government is to pilot the 30-hour scheme in a few areas in September 2016: Wigan, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Northumberland, York, Newham and Hertfordshire.

Help with childcare costs when working

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 on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website

From 2017, the Employer Supported Childcare scheme will be replaced by a new Tax-Free Childcare scheme.

Help with childcare costs when 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 for more information about this and any other schemes they may run to help you into work.

Help with childcare costs when studying

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

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


Updated: 21 July 2016 childcare calculator

Find out what help you can get towards childcare costs and compare your options.

Use the Childcare Calculator