Help with childcare costs

There are many different types of support available to help parents access the childcare they want in an affordable way. You can find out more information about the options available below.  You can also see what would suit you best by using the government’s childcare calculator.

Tax free childcare

From 2017 working parents with children under 12 (or under 17 for children with disabilities) can set up an online childcare account to pay their childcare providers directly. For every £8 parents pay in the account the Government will add £2, up to a maximum contribution of £2,000 per child or per year £4,000 per year for children with disabilities).

To qualify parent and any partner, must each expect to earn (on average) at least £120 per week (equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage). If a parent is on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or unable to work because they are disabled or have caring responsibilities, they could still be eligible.

HMRC has announced that compensation will be available to families who have been unable to access Tax-Free Childcare through their childcare account for technical reasons.  To find out more, please go to 

Working tax credit

Available to: Working parents |Teenage parents

For low income families with one parent working at least 16 hours per week.

Childcare element of Working Tax Credit - for low income families with childcare costs and both parents working at least 16 hours per week. This provides help for families to pay for registered childcare. You may be able to claim up to 70% of childcare costs (to a maximum amount per week dependant on the number of children) through the childcare element of Working Tax Credit.

All types of out-of-school service on Ofsted's early years, compulsory or voluntary registers or schemes provided by schools allow parents to claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit if they are on lower incomes. For holiday care, the provider must provide the service for at least four consecutive weeks.

  • Find out more about tax credits and work out what you can claim by visiting
  • Call the Tax Credits Helpline on 0845 300 3900 to find out if you can claim help with out-of-school childcare costs.

Child tax credit

Available to: Working parents |Teenage parents

For most families on incomes up to £50,000, or families with a baby under one year. Child Tax Credit is for people who are responsible for at least one child or qualifying young person. It is paid direct to the person who is mainly responsible for caring for the child or children.  Find out more at


Childcare vouchers

Available to: Working parents 

This scheme is only available through certain employers. Your employer may offer you childcare vouchers to help with your childcare costs. These vouchers can be used at most Ofsted-registered childcare providers and are worth up to £55 per week (£243 per month).

Usually, the vouchers are offered in return for a reduction in your pay - known as a 'salary sacrifice'. This means the money is taken from your pre-tax and national insurance pay, saving you money. There are a number of different schemes through which companies may distribute their vouchers - ask your employer for more information.

Childcare vouchers may affect the amount of tax credits you can get. This online calculator can help you decide whether - overall - you would be better off taking the vouchers or not:

Employer supported childcare

Available to: Working parents | Teenage parents

Childcare vouchers and employer-supported childcare. Some employers offer vouchers towards childcare costs for parents, often known as a “salary sacrifice” scheme.

You can use the vouchers towards the cost of childcare which is registered or approved or, in some cases, school-based. Please visit

NHS Childcare allowance

Available to: Working parents | Teenage parents

If you are a health professional student and receive an NHS Bursary, you can apply for help towards your childcare costs through the NHS Childcare Allowance.

The NHS childcare Allowance can pay up 85% of your childcare costs, up to maximum amount. The amount you receive will depend on your personal circumstances. For more information please contact NHS Student Bursary Helpline on 0300 330 1345.

Care to Learn (student grant)

Available to: Students

Care to Learn provides financial support to teenage parents who want to continue their education.

If you are under 20 years of age at the start of your course, Care to Learn can assist you with the costs of registered childcare, and travelling expenses to and from the childcare provider. If you are starting or continuing a course in September you can claim up to £175 a week towards the cost of Ofsted-registered childcare.

For more information or to apply visit

Discretionary Learning support fund

Available to: Students aged 19 or over

If you’re aged 19 or over and studying in a college course, the Discretionary learner Support Fund may be able to help you with a variety of costs, including childcare. The amount of funding available will vary for each college. You can apply for the Discretionary Learner Support Funding at your college. For information contact the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900.

16-19 bursary fund

Available to: Students aged 16 to 19

You could get a bursary to help with education-related costs if you’re aged 16 to 19 and in further education. It can be use to pay for this like clothing, books and If you’re aged 19 or over other equipment for your course and transport and lunch on days you study or train. Please visit

The Parents Learning Allowance  - for higher education

Available to: Teenage parents

Full time students could get extra support with course-related cost such as travel, books, equipment and childcare, on top of the childcare Grant (see above).

The amount you are awarded will depend on your circumstances. For more information please visit or contact Student Finance England on 0300 100 0607

Free early education and childcare for three and four-year-olds

Available to: Working parents | Teenage parents | Unemployed parents

Also known as 'free early years' education' or the '15 free hours' scheme', this grant entitles all three and four-year-olds to 15 hours of free early education each week for 38 weeks of the year (equivalent to school term time).

Free early education entitlement funding for two-year-olds

Some children aged two-years-old are eligible for 15 hours of free childcare provision per week.

Student childcare grant

Available to: Students in full time education

Paying for childcare when studying or training can be very difficult but there are a number of sources of funding available to support students. These include subsidised childcare places and the childcare grant.

Some colleges have their own nursery, crèche or have places reserved in local nurseries or with childminders. The student support service at college should provide this information.

Colleges and universities have Access Funds which can be used to support students with childcare costs. Further education colleges also have additional money to provide some free or subsidised places. For information and advice, contact the college direct.

To search for a college with its own childcare facilities, visit

If you are a full-time student with children you may qualify for extra financial help on top of the standard student finance package. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get the Childcare Grant (to help with childcare costs).

Full-time higher education students with children can apply for a Childcare Grant of up to £148.75 a week for 1 child or up to £255 for 2 or more children.

The grant helps with childcare costs for children under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs. Any money you get is paid on top of your student finance and you don't have to pay it back.

To apply for this grant you need to include it as part of your main student finance application. For student finance information, visit

For more information about the student childcare grant, visit:

Jobcentre Plus and lone parents

Job centres can give you a lot of support as you return to work and there is a team of lone parent advisors at each centre offering extra help for parents bringing up children alone.