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Who can claim the childcare element of universal credit?

Updated on 17 June 2020

Childcare

Childcare support in universal credit (UC) is paid through the childcare element. To qualify for this you need to:

  1. Meet the basic conditions of universal credit
  2. Meet the financial conditions of universal credit
  3. Meet the conditions for the childcare element of universal credit

You can find out more about the basic and financial conditions of universal credit in tax credits and benefit.

model family coins childcare
(c) Shutterstock / Hyejin Kang

⚠️ Due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK (March 2020 onwards), several alterations to the normal rules relating to the childcare element of UC are in place. Please see our coronavirus section for more information.

Can I claim childcare costs for my child?

You can claim the childcare element towards childcare costs for a child or qualifying young person you are treated as responsible for. DWP's guidance says that childcare is only payable for children up to and including the assessment period prior to the assessment period which includes 1 September following the child’s 16th birthday.

See How much can I claim? to find out how to calculate your childcare costs.

The childcare element conditions

An amount for childcare costs can only be included in an award of universal credit where you satisfy two conditions:

  1. The work condition
  2. The childcare costs condition

Work condition

The work condition requires you to be in paid work or that you are due to start that work before the end of the next assessment period.

If you are part of a couple, both members of that couple have to be in paid work. There is an exception to this where one member of the couple is not working and is unable to provide childcare themselves because they:

  • Have Limited Capability for Work; or
  • Have regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person; or
  • Are temporarily absent from the claimant’s household

Paid work means work that is done for payment or in expectation of payment. It does not include being engaged by a charitable or voluntary organisation or being a volunteer (where the only payment is expenses).

Some people will be treated as in paid work even if they are not working. A claimant will be treated as in paid work for that assessment period where:

  • They have ceased paid work
    • In that assessment period or
    • In the previous assessment period or
    • In the month immediately preceding the commencement of a new award but only where the assessment period in question is either the first assessment period or second assessment period following the commencement of the new award
  • They are receiving:
    • Statutory sick pay,
    • Statutory maternity pay,
    • Statutory paternity pay,
    • Statutory adoption pay,
    • Statutory parental bereavement leave,
    • Statutory shared parental pay or
    • Maternity allowance

Example

Asha is receiving Statutory sick pay whilst off work sick. She claims universal credit and her award starts on 6 March 2020. Asha is treated as in paid work and so can claim childcare costs in that assessment period.

Childcare costs condition

To meet this condition, the claimant must pay a childcare cost. The cost condition is met if the claimant has paid a charge for the relevant childcare of a child or qualifying young person for whom they have responsibility (for the period up to and including the assessment period pior to the assessment period which includes 1 September following the child's 16th birthday).

In addition the childcare charges must be attributable to that assessment period.

We explain more about what childcare charges can be claimed and for what period in How much can I claim?.

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