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Universal Credit

Support with the costs of childcare is available through Universal Credit via Universal Credit: childcare guide - GOV.UK (

Help with childcare costs 

If you work, you could get extra Universal credit to help with your childcare costs. You can claim as soon as you start paying for childcare, and only for the amounts that are actually paid by you.

Who can qualify?

  • You’re a lone parent

  • You must work 16 hours or more a week to claim help with childcare costs.

  • You’re part of a couple

Generally you and your partner must both work 16 hours or more a week to claim help. Only one of you has to work 16 hours or more if the

other is:

  • ‘incapacitated’ – this means they’re ill or disabled and getting certain benefits, or in certain circumstances National Insurance credits

  • in hospital

  • in prison – serving a custodial sentence or remanded in custody awaiting trial or sentence

  • entitled to Carer’s Allowance – even if they don’t get any payments because they receive other benefits instead

You’re off work – can you still claim?

There are situations where you can still claim for help with childcare costs. These are explained below.

You’re on maternity, paternity or adoption leave

If you were working at least 16 hours a week immediately before you went on leave – and any of the following apply:

  • you get maternity allowance

  • you’re on ordinary maternity or adoption leave

  • you’re in the first 13 weeks of additional maternity or adoption leave

  • you’re on your 2 weeks of paternity leave

How much help you can get:

You can get help with up to 85% of your childcare costs – up to certain limits.

If you pay childcare for:

  • one child, the maximum childcare cost you can claim is £646 a month

  • two or more children, the maximum cost you can claim is £1108 a month

It’s important to know that:

  • different income limits apply depending on your circumstances – for example if you have a large family the income limit could be higher

  • you need to make a claim to get a definite answer to how much you are entitled to

You can use ‘at a glance’ entitlement tables to get a rough idea of the help you could get. These tables show yearly amounts of tax credits based on different amounts of income – but they don’t cover every situation.

If you want a better idea of how much you could get, there’s also an online tax credits calculator you can use.

Childcare costs you can’t claim for through tax credits

You can’t claim for:

  • payment from your employer towards your childcare costs, either in cash or vouchers – this includes vouchers in return for a reduction in your pay (known as a ‘salary sacrifice’)

  • free early learning or nursery education – for example the 15 hours a week free early years education for 3 and 4 year olds in England

  • payments from the government towards your childcare costs because you are a student, or you are starting work

If your employer offers you childcare vouchers. There is an online calculator to help you decide whether you’re better off taking the vouchers

or not.

For more information about Universal credit go to :

Universal Credit Helpline – 08003285644

Opening hours - 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to Friday

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