Childcare is expensive, particularly if you have more than one child. There are a number of different ways that you might be able to receive help with the cost, however.

Tax Credits

If you are working then you may be able to claim for extra tax credits to help offset your childcare costs. Single parents need to work at least 16 hours per week while couples need to both work 16 hours in most, but not all, instances.

The amount of childcare tax credits that you will receive depends on your circumstances, however, this could be as high as 70% of the costs you are incurring, up to a maximum of £175 a week if you have one child or £300 if you have more than one.

Childcare via your Employer

Your employer may also offer one or more type of childcare schemes. These can include workplace nurseries, childcare vouchers, childcare paid directly to a nursery or other provider, or cash to pay for childcare. You may not need to pay tax or NI on some of these options, depending on your circumstances.

Help With Childcare Costs

Early Years Entitlement

If you have a three or four year old you may also be entitled to 15 hours of early years education a week during term time. This entitlement starts the term after your child turns three.

A variety of different types of settings are authorised to provide this free early years entitlement, including nurseries, preschools, childminders and some playgroups. Many also allow you to purchase additional hours that can fit in with your working hours. Your local council will hold details of authorised settings in your area.

Some two year olds are also entitled to free childcare too. Looked after children plus those from families receiving income support, income-related ESA, income-based ESA, state pension credit (guaranteed element), part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act support, child tax credit with an income of less than £16,190 and no working tax credit or the working tax credit run on payment you get when you stop qualifying for WTC can access the entitlement.

The eligibility criteria will expand further from September 2014 when children whose families receive working tax credit and earn less than £16,190 per annum, receive disability living allowance, those with a statement of special educational needs (or the replacement Education Health and Care Plan) and those who have left care via a residence order, adoption or special guardianship will also receive free early years provision from two years of age.

If you think you might be entitled to benefits then it can be worthwhile using the government’s benefits checker (https://www.gov.uk/benefits-adviser) to see whether you can claim. For some benefits you can claim online or via the jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance and Income Support phone number or, for tax credits, via the tax credits helpline.

While childcare can be expensive, many people find that there is some assistance that can help mitigate the cost. It is worth, therefore, regularly checking with your employer to see what assistance they offer and ensuring that you are receiving the benefits that you are entitled to.

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