Paying for Childcare

The cost of childcare can be a major expense for families and this may be a deciding factor when parent/carers are considering whether to return to work or training, and if so, whether they use ‘formal’ (registered or approved) or ‘informal’ (family and friends) childcare.  Although registered or approved childcare can be expensive, there are a number of funding streams, which can reduce the cost to the family:

Employer Childcare Voucher Scheme

One or both parents can sign up to a childcare voucher scheme through their employer.  This enables an amount of money to be deducted directly from their salary before tax, which is then paid to the childcare provider. Please contact your employer to find out if they are part of a childcare voucher scheme.

  • From October 2018, childcare voucher schemes will close to new applicants. You may be able to get Tax-Free Childcare instead.

Tax-Free Childcare

Tax-Free Childcare is a new Government scheme to help working families with their childcare costs. Parents will be able to open online childcare accounts to pay their registered childcare providers directly. For every £8 parents pay in to these accounts, the Government will add £2, and the total amount in the account can only be spent on childcare. Parents can receive up to £2,000 in Government support per child, per year, or £4,000 for disabled children. 

Universal Credit

You may be able to claim Universal Credit if you’re on a low income or out of work. If you are eligible you may be able to claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs.
You don’t need to do anything if you’re already claiming benefits.

Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit

On top of a basic amount of Working Tax Credit,  you can get help paying for childcare if it’s provided by an Ofsted registered childcare provider or a home careworker working for a registered home care agency.  Check your eligibility here.

Free Early Education and Childcare

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to up to 15 hours per week, over no less than 38 weeks per year of free early education or childcare a year (maximum of 570 hours per year) starting the term after the child’s third birthday. This is often taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year. 

30 Hours Childcare

From September 2017, working parents of three to four year olds could be entitled to an additional 15 hours of funded childcare - bringing the total up to 30 hours per week.


You can usually get 30 hours free childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:
  • in work - or getting parental leave, sick leave or annual leave
  • each earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week - this is £125.28 if you’re over 25
This earnings limit does not apply if you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago.
You’re not eligible if:
  • your child does not usually live with you
  • either you or your partner has a taxable income over £100,000
  • you’re from outside the EEA and your UK residence card says you cannot access public funds
If you foster your child, you cannot apply online for 30 hours free childcare. Speak to your social worker and your local authority if you want to apply.
You can get 30 hours free childcare at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, tax credits, childcare vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare.
You can apply on-line at

Important Information regarding the additional hours:
  • Parents must apply for the additional 15 hours the term before they want to claim.  Below are examples of the dates for each term.
  • If you want to claim the additional 15 hours from the summer term (which starts April) you must have a 30 hour eligibility code with a start date before 31st March and your child must be 3 year old before 31st March.
  • If you want to claim the additional 15 hours from the autumn term (which starts September) you must have a 30 hour eligibility code with a start date before 31st August and your child must be 3 years old before 31st August.
  • If you want to claim the additional 15 hours from the spring term (which starts January) you must have a 30 hour eligibility code with a start date before 31st December and your child must be 3 years old before 31st December.
Further information about the additional 15 hours can be found at:

Two Year Olds

Some 2-year-olds are also eligible for up to 15 hours per week of free early education  and childcare but parents/carers need to meet certain criteria

If you would like to apply for the 2 year old funding please fill in

Please include your National Insurance Number and your own date of birth, as this information is needed to check your eligibility. For more information please download our free childcare for 2 year old criteria or contact us.


If you are under 20 at the start of a publicly-funded course, for example at school or sixth form you could get weekly payments  to help with childcare costs through the Care to Learn scheme.  Check whether you are eligible here


Full-time higher education students with children can apply for a Childcare Grant.  The amount you may receive is available here.

The grant helps with childcare costs for children under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs.


If you and your partner are eligible for Shared Parental Leave and Pay, you can share up to 52 weeks of leave and up to 39 weeks of pay in the year after your child’s birth or adoption.


Students aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship, could get Discretionary Learner Support (DLS).