Universal credit childcare support: how much is it?
This page explains how much childcare support can be claimed through the childcare element of universal credit and what costs can be included in each assessment period.
Content on this page:
The maximum amount of the childcare element in any assessment period is 85% of the charges for relevant childcare, subject to a current maximum of £950.92 for one child or £1,630.15 for two or more children.
You can only claim these amounts for costs paid that are attributable to your particular assessment period (we explain below what this means).
Assessment periods and childcare costs
Childcare charges paid in that assessment period for any relevant childcare can be claimed but only if those charges are attributable to that assessment period.
To be attributable to an assessment period those costs:
- Have to be paid in that assessment period for childcare in respect of that assessment period, or
- Have to be paid in that assessment period for childcare in respect of a previous assessment period, or
- Have to have been paid in either of the previous two assessment periods for childcare in respect of that assessment period (if you are a new universal credit claimant, costs paid in the two months prior to the start of your universal credit award will be counted here – for more on this see DWP's guidance in Chapter F7 at F7056.
The following examples show how this works in practice:
Things become slightly more complicated where costs are paid in advance. Although you should be able to claim for amounts paid up to two months in advance, you may not be able to claim for them at the time you pay them.
Instead, DWP will work out how much of the payment was for costs in advance and you will claim that amount in the assessment period where you actually use the childcare.
The amount of childcare charges you can claim can be reduced if a DWP decision maker thinks that those charges are excessive when looking at the amount of paid work that you (and your partner) do.
There are no strict rules about what makes a childcare cost excessive and so it will be up to the DWP decision maker to decide, taking account of all of the information including your working patterns and the childcare patterns.
DWP guidance states that decision makers should be aware that:
- Childcare charges can still be excessive even if they are less than the maximum limits
- The availability (or lack of availability) or suitability of childcare providers may warrant higher childcare costs
- The location of the provider in relation to the claimant’s work and the available transport options may require longer periods of childcare
- No account is taken of the level of the childcare charge per hour
- Reasonable travel time should be included to the extent to which the claimant is in paid work
- Comparisons with other registered childcare providers should not be made
- School holidays, age of the child and any disability can legitimately increase the time needed for childcare
- Childcare may have to be purchased in blocks of time or sessions which can legitimately increase the childcare costs
If DWP think the costs are excessive, the amount claimed will be reduced by the amount of the excess. You will have a right of appeal against a decision to reduce childcare costs.
Your childcare provider might ask for a sum of money to keep a place for your child – this is sometimes known as a retainer. DWP say this is not eligible for reimbursement as relevant childcare costs for universal credit unless it is actually an advance payment for childcare costs.
Costs paid by other people
Only help with childcare costs that you actually incur can be claimed. The amount of childcare costs included for universal credit will be reduced by any amount that is met by an employer or some other person. This includes payments out of funds provided by the Government that are in connection with participation in work related activity or training.
Anyone who receives childcare vouchers from their employer will need to deduct them from their childcare costs for universal credit purposes. We explain more about this on our universal credit interactions page.