How do I claim the childcare element of universal credit?

Updated on 22 February 2019


This section explains how to claim the childcare element of universal credit.

How do I claim universal credit?

The childcare element is part of universal credit. Universal credit is being rolled out gradually across the UK. Not everyone is able to claim universal credit yet. You can only claim if you live in a relevant postcode. You can use our postcode tool to find out the latest position in your area. 

You can find out more about roll-out in our main tax credits and benefits section.

Universal credit claims are normally made online. If you cannot make an online claim then you can telephone the DWP. You can find out more about claiming universal credit on our website for advisers.

Childcare costs can be included in your universal credit claim providing you notify DWP of any costs incurred within the relevant time limit (see below) and, if you are a full (digital) universal credit claimant those costs must be attributable to an assessment period.

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What is the time limit for notifying childcare costs?

The time limit depends on whether you are claiming in a full (digital) service area or not. Universal credit is being tested under two systems – a live system and a full (digital) system. Early claimants of universal credit may be in the live system and this means they have different rules applied. Eventually all claimants of universal credit will move to the full (digital) system and rules. If you are not sure which system you are in, you should ask DWP. You can find out more about full (digital) and live service claims on our website for advisers.

In live service areas you must notify DWP of your childcare costs within a period up to and including the end of the assessment period that follows the assessment period in which the costs were paid.

Example 1

Ronnie has childcare costs of £300 a month that he pays on the 26th of each month. His universal credit assessment period runs from 10th of each month and ends on the 9th of the following month. For the amount Ronnie paid on 26th January to be included as childcare costs then he must notify DWP of that January expenditure before 10th March.

If you are a full (digital) service universal credit claimant you must notify DWP of the amount you have paid for childcare before the end of that assessment period. In other words, the notification period is reduced.

Example 2

Martha has an assessment period that starts on the 15th of each month and ends on the 14th of the following month. She pays childcare costs in respect of 1st January to 31st of March but does not report these until 28th February. The costs paid for the period 1st January to 14th February are out of time so will not be included in the childcare costs element. However the costs paid between 15th February to 31st March will be included in her assessment period that runs from 15th February to 14th March as they were reported in time.

If certain conditions are met, DWP will allow childcare costs that are reported late to be included.

If you are a full (digital) service universal credit claimant, where you have told DWP of costs in time, they will then have to consider whether the costs are attributable to that assessment period.

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