What is qualifying childcare?

Updated on 20 April 2023


Not all childcare will qualify for support through the childcare element of universal credit (UC). They must be relevant childcare charges to qualify. 

Illustration of a woman and two children

What are relevant childcare charges?

Relevant childcare charges mean charges for childcare that is registered or approved by the appropriate authorities, such as Ofsted. Your childcare provider should be able to provide you with a registration number. It is important you check with the authority to make sure their status is current and you should make sure that they renew their registered or approved status each year.

The exact rules about regulation of childcare vary depending on where you live in the UK and you can find more information in the DWP guidance starting at F7031.

Some types of childcare that provide face to face tuition or supervised activity may be regarded as relevant childcare charges. Activity clubs such as ballet lessons and football clubs or tuition classes may be registered with OFSTED or the equivalent and DWP have said they will need to decide case by case whether these are reasonable and relevant childcare for universal credit. If you use childcare that is not registered or approved then you will not qualify for help with childcare costs through UC. If your provider was registered and then that registration lapses, you must inform DWP immediately.

The childcare you can claim for must be used to enable you to start, or stay in, paid work. The costs also need to be attributable to that assessment period.

What does not count as a relevant childcare charge?

Care provided by a foster parent of the child is excluded childcare for UC and so any charges paid do not count as relevant childcare charges.

Any charges paid for your child’s compulsory education do not count as a relevant childcare charge.

The amount of childcare charges paid by you can be reduced if the DWP consider them to be excessive when considering the amount of paid work you are doing relative to your childcare costs. For example, if you work 16 hours but claim childcare for 40 hours, DWP may consider whether this is excessive.

Childcare charges are also reduced by any amount that is met by an employer (such as through childcare vouchers) or some other person or out of funds provided by the Government in connection with participation in work related activity or training.

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 UC unless it is actually an advance payment for childcare costs.

Can I claim if a relative provides my childcare?

There are special rules if your child is looked after by a relative. Care by a close relative in the child’s own home is excluded.

Close relative for UC is defined in relation to the child. So a grandparent is not classed as a close relative of a child. Care provided by a close relative away from the child’s home is acceptable.

You can find more information on excluded childcare in the DWP guidance in Chapter F7 – starting at F7066.

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