How do I claim the childcare element of universal credit?

Updated on 20 April 2023


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

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How do I claim universal credit?

Help with the costs of childcare in UC is done by including the childcare element part of universal credit (UC) to the claim. UC is available across the UK and HMRC state that it is no longer possible to make a brand new claim for tax credits. However, existing tax credit claimants may be able to get the childcare element of working tax credit if they start paying for childcare costs.

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 those costs are attributable to your assessment period.

You should tell DWP about your childcare costs via your UC online journal. You will also need to provide proof of costs such as invoices and receipts from your childcare provider – your work coach should tell you how to do this.

From Summer 2023, it will be possible for UC claimants with childcare costs to claim these upfront when moving into work or increasing their hours. 

What is the time limit for notifying childcare costs?

Before 16 October 2019, you had to notify the DWP of the amount you paid for childcare before the end of that assessment period. DWP decide whether the costs are attributable to that assessment period.

Since 16 October 2019, the time limit has been extended by a month. This means you need to notify DWP about your childcare costs by the end of the assessment period following the assessment period in which you paid them.

DWP have said that where a claimant pays for their costs in assessment period 1 (AP1) but reports them in AP2, and also reports and pays for further costs (occurring in AP2) in AP2 – depending on what the period covered is, the UC childcare element covering costs for AP1 will be paid through an ad-hoc payment if the AP1 award payment has already been made. The costs occurring in the separate assessment periods are not added together for the purposes of reaching the childcare element cap.

Example (after 16 October 2019)

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 26 January to be included as childcare costs then he must notify DWP of that expenditure before the 9th March, ie he paid the costs in the assessment period 10 January to 9 February and he has until the end of the following assessment period to notify DWP.

Late notification of childcare costs

It may be possible to be paid for childcare costs that are reported late if DWP accept that there were special circumstances that led to the delay.

For more information, visit GOV.UK Universal credit and childcare.

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