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Updated on 6 April 2024


This part of the website contains information about the different types of financial support that are available from the government to help with the costs of childcare. 

childs hands pressed against a window which has been painted with a rainbow using colours, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.
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Currently, the main types of financial support are offered by either:

  • Reducing the amount of income tax and national insurance you have to pay on your earnings – this is sometimes referred to as tax relief;
  • Including additional amounts for childcare in an award of benefits such as tax credits or universal credit;
  • Provision of free childcare places: where the Government meets the cost; or
  • Tax-free childcare; a scheme where you put money into a childcare account to pay for childcare costs and for each 80p you put into the account, the Government will also put in 20p (up to certain limits).

In some cases, you can use a combination of these schemes and in some cases you can only use one of the schemes. The schemes vary and choosing which option is most suitable for you will depend on your circumstances now as well as any known future changes. Sometimes applying for help through one scheme can stop support through another, so it is important to check the rules of each scheme carefully before deciding which to apply for.

There are other types of help towards the cost of childcare which you may be able to get, depending on your circumstances and where you live.

If you are studying, there are schemes like the Discretionary Learner Support, if you are aged 19 or over and on certain further education courses. Each college has its own scheme so you need to speak to your college for more information. If you’re in full-time higher education, you may be able to get a childcare grant to help pay for eligible childcare costs.

In England, if you are under 20 and caring for your own child, you may be able to get care to learn payments, which are paid directly to your childcare provider. You can apply online via GOV.UK.

If you receive housing benefit to help with your rent, some of your earnings may be disregarded if you pay childcare costs.

Student support and local schemes which offer help towards childcare costs vary according to where you live and your circumstances. You should contact your local council or college to find out more information about what help is available and how you can claim.

Most help towards the cost of childcare is only provided for childcare which is registered or approved. The rules for each different scheme may be different. You should check the rules of each scheme to make sure your childcare qualifies.

You should also check carefully the rules for claiming support from more than one scheme. For example, if you are claiming a student childcare grant, you cannot claim the childcare element of tax credits to cover the same childcare costs.

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