Childcare and Nursery Fees Early Years

Overview

You might be entitled to financial help with childcare and nursery costs during the early years of your child’s life. Take a look at the schemes available.

Tax-free Childcare

You can open an online account to pay for registered childcare and the government will top up the payments you make.

How it works?

To qualify you need to be a working parent with a child age 11 (will qualify until 1 september after their 11th birthday) or under, or a disabled child under 17.

Each time you pay £8.00 into your account the government will pay an extra £2.00 in for you. You will be able to receive a total of £2,000.00 (up to £500.00 every three months) per child per year from the government. The amount will double to £4,000.00 per year for a disabled child.

Eligibility criteria

You, and any partner, will be expected to both earn a minimum of £131.00 per week, on average. This amounts to 16 hours each at the National Minimum or Living Wage.

If either of you expect to earn £100,000 or more, you will not qualify.

You may still meet the eligibility criteria if the following applies:

  • Either you or your partner is on maternity, paternity or adoption leave
  • You or your partner are unable to work because you are disabled
  • Either you or your partner have caring responsibilities

How can the tax free childcare be used?

The Tax-Free Childcare account can be accessed all year round and can be used in addition to the ‘15 hours free childcare’ and ‘30 hours free childcare’ initiatives.

The money in the account can be used for the following:

  • Registered childminders, nurseries and nannies
  • Registered after-school clubs and playschemes
  • Registered schools
  • Home care workers working for a registered home care agency

However you will not be allowed to use it with: Universal Credit, Tax Credits or childcare vouchers.

To apply

Visit www.gov.uk/apply-for-tax-free-childcare to make an application and to set up your online account. The process will take you approximately 20 minutes.

15 hours free childcare - For 2 year olds

If you live in England and have a 2 year old child you may qualify for 15 hours per week of free early education and childcare.

How it works

If you’re eligible your child can receive free early education and childcare from 1 January, 1 April or 1 September following your child’s 2nd birthday.

The 15 hours of childcare can be provided over a period of 38 weeks, giving a total of 570 hours per year. You are able to use the hours flexibly with one or more childcare provider and some may allow you to ‘stretch’ the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week.

You will need to pay for any extras to cover the cost of any food (or supply lunch), nappies, sun cream etc and any extra hours or activities (such as, educational visits). Providers are allowed to charge for any extras and the arrangement will be between you and the childcare provider. However, you must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up the free 15 hours, and must be offered alternative options.

Eligibility criteria

In order to qualify you will need to be in receipt of one of the following means tested benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - (you and your partner will need to have a combined income from work of £15,400 or under per year, after tax)
  • Tax credits (but your income must be £16,190 or under per year before tax)
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

In addition to the above you will qualify for this initiative if any of the following apply:

  • Your child is being looked after by a local council
  • Your child has a statement of special education needs (SEN) or an

education, health and care (EHC) plan

  • Your child receives Disability Living Allowance
  • Your child has left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or an adoption order

How can the free childcare be used?

If you qualify for free early education and childcare, you will need to use an approved childminder, participants will include:

  • Full day care , such as nurseries
  • Schools
  • Childminders
  • Sessional providers, such as, playgroups
  • Sure Start Children's Centres

How to apply

Contact your childcare provider or contact your local council for a list of local approved childminders and providers offering the free 15 hour service.

Nb.There are different schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

15 hours free childcare - For 3 and 4 year olds

If you live in England and have a 3 or 4 year old child you will be able to receive 15 hours per week of free early education and childcare.

How it works

The 15 hours of childcare can be provided over a period of 38 weeks, giving a total of 570 hours per year. You are able to use the hours flexibly with one or more childcare provider and some may allow you to ‘stretch’ the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week

You will need to pay for any extras to cover the cost of any food (or supply lunch), nappies, sun cream etc and any extra hours or activities (such as, educational visits). Providers are allowed to charge for any extras and the arrangement will be between you and the childcare provider. However, you must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up the free 15 hours, and must be offered alternative options.

Eligibility criteria

Your child will be able to receive free early education and childcare from 1 January, 1 April or 1 September following their 3rd birthday. This provision stops when your child starts in reception class or when they reach compulsory school age, if this is later.

How can the free childcare be used?

You must use an approved childminder, participants will include:

  • Full day care , such as nurseries
  • Schools
  • Childminders
  • Sessional providers, such as, playgroups
  • Sure Start Children's Centres
  • After school clubs

How to apply

Contact your childcare provider or contact your local council for a list of local approved childminders and providers.

Nb.There are different schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

30 Hours Free Childcare

If you live in England and have a 3 or 4 year old child you may qualify for 30 hours per week of free early education and childcare.

How it works

If you’re eligible your child can receive 30 hours of free early education and childcare from 1 January, 1 April or 1 September following your child’s 3rd birthday. You can apply when your child is 2 years and 36 weeks old.

The 30 hours of childcare can be provided over a period of 38 weeks, giving a total of 1,140 hours per year. You are able to use the hours flexibly with one or more childcare provider and some may allow you to ‘stretch’ the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week

You will need to pay for any extras to cover the cost of any food (or supply lunch), nappies, sun cream etc and any extra hours or activities (such as, educational visits). Providers are allowed to charge for any extras and the arrangement will be between you and the childcare provider. However, you must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up the free 15 hours, and must be offered alternative options.

Eligibility criteria

You, and any partner, will be expected to both earn a minimum of £131.00 per week, on average. This amounts to 16 hours each at the National Minimum or Living Wage.

If either of you expect to earn £100,000 or more, you will not qualify.

You may still meet the eligibility criteria if the following applies:

  • Either you or your partner is on maternity, paternity or adoption leave
  • You or your partner are unable to work because you are disabled
  • Either you or your partner have caring responsibilities

How can the free childcare be used?

You must use an approved childminder, participants will include:

  • Full day care , such as nurseries
  • Schools
  • Childminders
  • Sessional providers, such as, playgroups
  • Sure Start Children's Centres
  • After school clubs

How can the free childcare be used?

If you qualify for the 30 hours free early education and childcare, you will need to use an approved childminder, participants will include:

  • Full day care , such as nurseries
  • Schools
  • Childminders
  • Sessional providers, such as, playgroups
  • Sure Start Children's Centres

How to apply

You can apply online for a childcare account to receive a code for 30 hours to give to your provider. Visit www.gov.uk/apply-for-tax-free-childcare to make an application and to set up your online account if you don’t already have one. The process will take you approximately 20 minutes.

You need to apply in good time in order to receive a valid code by the end of the month before a new term starts. You are required to reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. If you apply more than 3 months before the term starts, you will be required to reconfirm your eligibility in your account in order to keep your code valid.

Nb.There are different schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Tax Credits For Childcare

Tax credits for childcare is now closed to new applications for the majority of people from 1 February 2019.

Universal Credit will now be replacing a number of existing benefits, including tax credits. If you are already receiving tax credits, you don't need to do anything at the moment.

Universal Credit For Childcare

Universal Credit is being gradually introduced and replacing a number of benefits including tax credits. Universal Credit for childcare is for working families, with children under the age of 17, and who are claiming Universal Credit, in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

How it works

You will need to be a Universal Credit claimant, but can claim back up to 85% of your eligible childcare costs for children under 17. You may be able to receive £646 a month for one child, or £1,108 for two or more.

How can the free childcare be used

You can use the payment to help towards:

  • Registered childminders, nurseries, and nannies
  • Registered after-school clubs and playschemes
  • Registered schools
  • Home care workers working for a registered home care agency

How to apply

If you are currently in receipt of tax credits you do not need to do anything at the moment. You are not allowed to claim Universal credit at the same time as tax credits or tax free childcare.

Please refer to our factsheet Universal Credit for further details on how to claim.