Help with childcare costs
Once you have found and chosen a quality childcare provider, the next step is to look at what assistance is available to help you pay for your childcare.
There are several different schemes available to help parents and carers pay their childcare costs, depending on their individual family circumstances.
Details of some of these schemes are given below. For more information about which schemes you might be eligible for you can also visit the Childcare Choices website where you will also find a handy calculator to help you work out which scheme will benefit you the most.
You can also contact us to discuss the options on offer.
If you do not qualify for any of the other schemes outlined below then help may still be available through Tax Free Childcare. This new scheme launched in April 2017 is currently open for families with a child aged under five and will then be rolled out to families of older children over the next few months. The scheme is available to pay for childcare for children up to the age of 12, or 17 if they have a disability.
You can open an online account in to which you, or anyone else, can pay in money to cover your childcare costs. For every 80 pence you pay in, the Government will pay in an extra 20 pence. The payment will be calculated and paid every three months. You will then be able to use the total amount saved in the account to pay your childcare bills by linking your childcare provider directly to your account.
To be eligible to open an account you must:
- Be in work (employed or self employed) and earning at least £120 per week (the equivalent of 16 hours at national minimum or living wage). This includes those on zero hour contracts.
- Not be claiming help with childcare costs through Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit or a childcare voucher scheme.
- Not be earning more than £100,000 per year.
Tax Free Childcare will replace employer childcare voucher schemes. Voucher schemes will close to new applicants from April 2018, although they will remain open to existing users.
You can apply for Tax Free Childcare by visiting HMRC Childcare Service.
Childcare Choices have produced a top things for parents toolkit [PDF, 356Kb] to support you with applying for tax free childcare and 30 hours childcare.
Working Tax Credit (WTC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) are being replaced by Universal Credit. In North Lincolnshire new applicants have been claiming Universal Credit since June 2015. Families currently receiving Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit are being moved across to Universal Credit gradually, and you will receive a letter from HMRC informing you of when you will be moved across.
Childcare help under Working Tax Credit
You are eligible to claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit if:
- you are eligible for Working Tax Credit
- you are a single parent and work at least 16 hours per week
- you have a partner and you both work for at least 16 hours per week
- one of you works for at least 16 hours per week and the other partner is in hospital, in prison or entitled to certain benefits
- you are on sick leave or maternity/paternity leave from your normal paid work
The amount of help you can get with your childcare costs through the childcare element of Working Tax Credit depends on your income, but can be a maximum of 70 per cent of your total costs. There is a cap on the maximum amount you can receive.
If you would like to claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit (WTC) you can complete the relevant section of the WTC claim form when you first apply. If you already receive WTC but now wish to claim the childcare element you will need to contact the WTC helpline on 0345 300 3900. You will need to provide them with the OfSTED registration number of your childcare provider and the amount you pay weekly for childcare. If you use more childcare during school holidays for example, remember to work out the average amount it costs you over the year.
You cannot claim for any hours of childcare that are already paid for by your employer (through childcare vouchers, for example) or by the council for a free education place for a two, three or four year old.
You will need to inform HMRC if you change childcare providers, your childcare costs fall or rise and of any other change that will affect your eligibility for Tax Credits such as changes to your income or moving in with a partner.
Childcare costs and Universal Credit
You can get help with childcare costs if you get Universal Credit (UC) and:
- you work (there are no minimum hours)
- childcare is used to allow you to go to work
The amount of help you will get depends on your income up to a maximum of 85 per cent of your childcare costs or a maximum of £646 per month for one child or £1108 per month for two or more children.
- It is important to note that you cannot claim more help to cover higher childcare costs during school holidays for example. Unlike with Working Tax Credit, childcare costs are not averaged out over the year.
- Unlike WTC, childcare payments under Universal Credit are paid in arrears so you will have to pay your childcare costs up front and then claim them back. You will have to make your claim within a fixed period of time and the payment will then be made along with your next UC payment.
- You can claim help with childcare costs under UC until 31 August following your child’s 16th birthday.
If you are looking to return to work or training, support might be available from your local Jobcentre Plus.
There are several schemes available to assist students with the cost of paying for childcare whilst they study. They could be a young parent, an adult learner, full-time or part-time or studying or training for a return to work. More information about the help available can be found on GOV.UK:
As well as the help available through Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit or Early Education Funding for children outlined above, parents and carers of children with a disability or special educational need may also be entitled to other sources of financial help to cover their childcare costs.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
The ‘care’ component of DLA can be claimed when a child is three months old, if they require extra care and supervision due to a physical and/or mental disability. The ‘mobility’ component can be claimed when the child reaches three years old. For more information and to receive a claim pack, please contact the benefits enquiry help line on 0800 882200.
If you have a child with a disability you can apply to North Lincolnshire Council for Direct Payments. This means you have more choice and control over the care your child receives. Direct Payments can allow you to shape your own childcare package to meet you and your child’s needs.
For more information on Direct Payments call 01724 407988.
The Local Offer
For information about resources, services, support, activities and childcare in North Lincolnshire for children with Special Educational Needs or disabilities and their families, visit the North Lincolnshire Local Offer website.