Parents could be missing out on thousands of pounds in free childcare help – 4 ways to claim


BUDGETING when you have a family to look after can often be a tall order.

Food, clothes, school, travel, days out, childcare – it all adds up, so we have listed all the ways you can be sure not to miss out on the childcare help available.

Children aged 3 and 4 can get 570 hours of free childcare

And it could save you thousands of pounds.

In 2020, the average cost of raising a child from birth to 18 was £75,436 for a couple, and a whopping £102,627 for a single parent.

And with everyone feeling the pinch that coronavirus has caused, we’ve outlined all the ways you could save on childcare as kids head back to school this March.

570 hours free childcare per year for 3 & 4 year olds

All children at Nursery age in England are entitled to 570 hours per year of free childcare.

Mostly this is taken as 15 hours for 38 weeks.

You can start using your free hours in the term after your child turns 3 and it ends when your child starts school or becomes compulsory school age.

1,140 hours for those eligible

Some families, alternatively, can get up to 30 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year olds per week.

To be eligible for this you would need to be earning more than 16  x national minimum wage per week as a single parent but less than £100,000 per year.

If you live with a partner, you both need to be earning more than 16 x national minimum wage per week (if one of you is self-employed and started your business less than a year ago this won’t apply to them).

Or one of you needs to be working and earning more than 16 x national minimum wage and the other needs to be claiming Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

If either of you has an income of more than £100,000 per year you won’t be able to use the scheme.

Free childcare for 2 years olds

Some families can get free childcare for their children from age 2 and this entitles you to 15 hours per week.

Parents can expect to pay an average up to £12,484 per year for a child aged two to attend full time nursery, according to the Family and Childcare Trust.

To qualify for free childcare for your 2 year old, you have to be receiving Universal Credit and your household earns less than £15,400 per year after tax or if you receive Income support or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

More details can be found from Turn2Us.

Up to £13,296 with Universal Credit

Universal Credit can help with the costs of childcare, no matter how many hours you work.

You may be able to claim up to 85% of your childcare costs if you’re eligible.

How much you can get – and if you’re entitled to it at all – depends on your circumstances, but you could get up to £646 a month for one child, and up to £1,108 a month if you’ve two or more children.

Childcare support is paid in arrears. This means that you will usually pay the costs yourself, and Universal Credit will then pay you up to 85% of the money back. 

To help understand Universal Credit you can check out this guide.

You could claim back 85 percent of your childcare costs with Universal Credit

£2,000 Tax Free childcare

Fewer than one in five of the 1.3 million families eligible for Tax Free Childcare have signed up.

If your child is 11 or younger (or 17 if they have a disability) then this Government scheme offers up to £2,000 a year per child towards childcare costs.

The Tax-Free Childcare scheme is designed so that for every 80p you put into your Tax-Free Childcare account, the state will add 20p.

Essentially giving you basic-rate tax back on your bill

A quick and easy way of making sure you put in the right amount is to look at your childcare bill and multiply it by 0.80.

This gives you 80% of the total bill, with the final 20% appearing as a top up. 

The scheme is available to all workers including the self-employed but only if you earn at least £140 a week and less than £100,000/year.

How does Coronavirus affect Tax-Free Childcare 

Your tax-free childcare entitlement won’t be cut if you’re temporarily earning less because of coronavirus.

Your Tax Free Childcare won’t be cut if you’re on furlough

Normally, you’d need to earn a minimum income of £140 a week but new rules mean that if you’re temporarily earning less because you’ve been furloughed, you can still be eligible based on what you’d normally earn.

It also works if you would have usually earned above £100,000 a year but have seen your income drop in the past year because of things like furlough too.

A lot of schemes are means tested so charitable organisation, Turn2Us, has this helpful benefits calculator to help you see if you are entitled to means-tested benefits and carers allowance.

If you are looking for more assistance, Turn2Us also has this easy to use Grants Search to see if you are eligible for a one-off charitable gift.

Children returned to schools on March 8 as lockdown restrictions began to lift in England.

Make sure you don’t miss the end of the Tax Year.

If you’re struggling with mortgage or credit bills there are just three weeks left to apply for payment holidays.