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Paying for childcare


Tax Free Childcare

Who is it for?

Working families, including the self-employed, in the UK

  • earning at least £142 per week (equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage) each but under £100k
  • who aren’t receiving Tax Credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers
  • with children aged 0-11 (or 0-16 if disabled)

How does it work?

It is a Government top-up scheme where you open an account and for every £8 you pay in the government will add in an extra £2. Up to £2,000 per child per year. Or for children aged 0-16 with Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND) you can receive up to £4,000 per year.

Is it for me?

You, and any partner, must both be working and each expect to earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage, and each earn less than £100,000 a year.

If you, or your partner, are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or you’re unable to work because you are disabled or have caring responsibilities, you could still be eligible.

You can use Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as:

  • 15 hours funded childcare
  • 30 hours funded childcare

Over two-thirds of childcare and early years providers in Devon are registered to accept Tax-Free Childcare. If a provider is not already registered parents/carers can ask them to do so, to help them save on their childcare costs.

Find out more and apply for Tax Free Chilcare

Care to Learn

Who is it for?

Parents under the age of 20 who are starting a publically funded course in England in a school, a sixth form or college such as Exeter College, Petroc, South Devon College or City College Plymouth.

How does it work?

Up to £160 per week per child is paid directly to the childcare provider (travel costs go to your school or college – they’ll either pay you or arrange travel for you).

It can help with the cost of:

  • your childcare, including deposit and registration fees
  • a childcare taster session for up to 5 days
  • keeping your childcare place over the summer holidays
  • taking your child to their childcare provider

Find out more and apply for Care to Learn

Funded care and education for 2-year-olds

Who is it for?

2-year-old children from the term after their second birthday.

Your 2-year-old is eligible for funded childcare if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • Child Tax Credits and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

2-year-olds can also get funded childcare if they:

  • are looked after by the Local Authority
  • have an Education, Health and Care Plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order
  • families with no recourse to public funds and who are in the following groups, subject to income thresholds
    • Zambrano carers
    • families who have no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
    • families receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 who are also subject to a no recourse to public funds restriction
    • spousal visa holders
    • work visa holders
    • student visa holders
    • those with no immigration status
    • those with a British National (Overseas) visa
    • those with a UK ancestry visa
    • those with temporary protection status under Section 12 of the Nationality and Borders Act
    • those with pre-settled status with no qualifying right to reside.

How does it work?

The funding is paid directly to the childcare providers and covers 15 hours per week for 38 weeks a year during school term time, although some childcare providers may allow you to use fewer hours per week, for more weeks of the year.

Find out more about funded care and education for 2-year-olds

Funded care and education for 3 and 4-year-olds

Who is it for?

All 3 and 4-year-old children.

From the term after their third birthday, until they start school, your child is entitled to up to 570 hours of funded early learning and childcare each year.

How does it work?

The funding is paid directly to the childcare providers and covers 15 hours per week for 38 weeks a year during school term time, although some childcare providers may allow you to use fewer hours per week, for more weeks of the year.

Find out more about funded care and education for 3 and 4-year-olds

Extra funded places for working families of 3 and 4 year-olds

Who is it for?

You can usually get extra funded childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:

  • in work
  • on sick leave or annual leave
  • on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave

Your 3 or 4-year-old child may be eligible for 30 hours of funded early years childcare up to a maximum of 1140 hours per year. You may wish to use up to 30 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year (term time) or some providers will allow you to ‘stretch’ the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week

How does it work?

Eligibility for 30 hours of funded childcare will be checked by the government. You can find out more about eligibility criteria here and you can apply for 30 hours of funded childcare through their Childcare Service website.

Once you have been approved, you give the code that the Childcare Service provides you with to your childcare provider and they receive the funding

Find out more about extra funded places for 3-and-4-year-olds

Universal Credit

Who is it for?

Working parents who are eligible for Universal Credit with children aged under 17.

How does it work?

You may be able to claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs for up to two children.

You (and your partner if you live with them) will usually need to either:

  • be working – it does not matter how many hours you or your partner work
  • have a job offer

The most you can get back each month is:

  • £646 for one child
  • £1108 for 2 or more children

Childcare element of Working Tax Credit

Who is it for?

Working parents who are already claiming Tax Credits.

How does it work?

If you already claim tax credits, you can add an extra amount of Working Tax Credit to help cover the cost of childcare.

Both of the following must apply:

  • your child is in approved childcare
  • the childcare is provided in-person, not online

You could get up to £122.50 (1 child) or £210 (2 or more children) a week.

Report your change of circumstances online

Further Education Learner Support

Who is it for?

If you’re aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship, you could get Learner Support which can cover some childcare costs.

You must be:

  • 19 or over
  • studying at a learning provider funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (check with your college)

How does it work?

Your learning provider (for example, a college) decides how much you get. It depends on their scheme and your circumstances. Contact them for details.

Higher Education Childcare Grant

Who is it for?

You may be eligible for help with your childcare costs if you:

  • are a full-time higher education student
  • have children under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs
  • Eligible for Student Finance

How does it work?

The amount you’ll get depends on:

  • your household income
  • the number of children who are dependent on you

You can get 85% of your childcare costs or a fixed maximum amount, whichever is less (this varies by year)

Your grant will be paid into a Childcare Grant Payment Service (CCGPS) account. Your childcare provider will send requests for payment to the CCGPS, which you can approve through your account. You’ll usually need to do this every week. Your provider will be paid directly from the money in your account.

Find out more and apply for a Childcare Grant.

MOD Wraparound Childcare (WAC) Scheme

Who is it for?

All Service personnel in the UK from autumn 2022.

How does it work?

The scheme is for children aged between 4-11 years old (up to 17 years if disabled), either attending school or being home educated whose parent must be Service personnel (Regular and Full Time Reserve Service Full Commitment) assigned within the UK or serving on an unaccompanied assignment overseas, involuntarily, with the family residing in the UK

Funding for 20 hours a week of capped by region funding for wraparound childcare (before and after school care) for each child during term time.

This can be used with any Ofsted approved childcare setting. The childcare provider must be able to accept payments from Tax-Free Childcare accounts.

Find out more and eligibility criteria – this information applies to all Service Personell.


NHS Bursaries - Childcare Allowance

Who is it for?

Healthcare professional students who receive an NHS Bursary

How does it work?

You may be able to get the NHS Bursary Childcare Allowance if you have dependent children.

How much you get depends on your circumstances and your household income.

To qualify:

  • you must use a registered childcare provider
  • your children must be under 15 on the first day of the academic year (or under 17 if they have special educational needs)

The allowance pays 85% of the gross actual cost up to:

  • £128.78 a week for 1 child
  • £191.45 a week for 2 or more children

Find out more about NHS Bursaries.

Employer Childcare Vouchers

Who is it for?

Parents and carers who were members of an Employer Voucher scheme when they closed to new applicants in October 2018 and have:

  • Stayed with the same employer
  • Made at least one payment into their account every 52 weeks (more than £0)
  • Not left the Childcare Voucher scheme to join Tax-Free Childcare.

How does it work?

Childcare Vouchers are operated through salary sacrifice. A salary sacrifice arrangement is an agreement to reduce an employee’s entitlement to cash pay, usually in return for a non-cash benefit.

Under the Childcare Voucher scheme employees may ‘sacrifice’ part of their pay in exchange for Childcare Vouchers, to save money on tax and National Insurance Contributions. To avail of these savings employees can only use Childcare Vouchers to pay for registered childcare.

Each eligible parent can sacrifice a maximum of £243 per month from their salary into their Childcare Voucher account.

If you have been paying for childcare for other children with the scheme and now have other children to pay childcare for, as long as you meet the criteria above you can continue to use Employer Childcare Vouchers.

Children with special needs or a disability

Disability Access Fund (DAF)

The DAF funding is given to an early years provider (preschool, nursery, childminder) where a three or four-year-old child attends for their early years funded time. The funding is a single annual payment (April to April) of £615.

Childcare Providers claim this on your behalf,

Direct payments for children with a disability

Direct payments for children with a disability is money given to families to pay for services and equipment themselves, instead of having them arranged by the Local Authority.

These payments may be provided by social care after an assessment process and can be very useful in allowing parents and carers to choose their own childcare package, including support and services that are not routinely provided by community care services.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children may help with the extra costs of looking after a child who:

Find out more

Childcare cost calculators and helplines

Find information on Childcare

You can find information on Pinpoint about available childcare in Devon and is the definitive source of registered childcare in Devon.

You can narrow down these searches by using the ‘Refine your search results’ filter of ‘Area Served’.