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Childcare options and help with benefits

Childcare costs can eat up a large chunk of your family's monthly budget. They can vary depending on the type of childcare you want and where you live.

What help is available?

You don’t need to be on a low income to get help with childcare costs. Your employer and the government may be able to help by providing tax credits, or free childcare.

The Money Advice Service can help you find help with childcare costs in your area.

15 or 30 hours of free childcare

15 or 30 hours of free childcare or early education is available for all 3-4 year olds in the UK.

The hours can be used at one or more of these types of registered childcare providers:

  • registered childminders
  • full day care (e.g. nurseries)
  • playgroups and pre-schools
  • Sure Start Children's Centres 
  • holiday schemes, breakfast and after school clubs.

How much you can get depends on which country you live in. Find out more and if you’re eligible from the childcarechoices.gov.uk site.

Tax free childcare

Tax free childcare is the new government scheme to help working parents (including the self-employed).

For every £8 you pay into your childcare account, the government will pay in £2, up to 2,000 per child per year.

You can use tax free childcare at the same time as the 15 or 30 hours of free childcare. However, it can’t be used at the same time as childcare vouchers, Universal Credit or tax credits.

To qualify for tax free childcare a parent or parents must:

  • be working and have children under 12
  • earn at least £131 per week on average each. This is equivalent to 16 hours at the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage. Find out more in The Money Advice Service guide
  • have under £100,000 adjusted net income per year, per parent.

Visit childcarechoices.gov.uk for further information on help with childcare costs for children.

Other sources of financial support

Free NHS prescriptions

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are always free.

In England, you can get free prescriptions and NHS dental treatment throughout your pregnancy, up until your baby is 12 months old.

Child Benefit

In the 2019/20 tax year, you can claim £20.70 a week for your first child and £13.70 for each other child.

This applies even if you have savings and will give you credits towards your state pension, which is important if you’re not working.

If you or your partner earn £50,000 or more, you’ll need to pay back some or all of your Child Benefit in extra Income Tax. But it could still be worth applying to help protect your state pension.

Universal Credit and the Sure Start Maternity Grant

If you’re on a very low income and not working you may be entitled to Universal Credit or the Sure Start Maternity Grant.

For a full list of benefits you can claim when you’re expecting, and to check your eligibility for each one visit the Money Advice Service website.

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