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Help with childcare costs

One of the practical issues in returning to work or education after having a baby is arranging childcare. For some people, other family members can help out, such as the baby's grandparents. For others, a childminder, nursery, daycare or other arrangement will need to be made. The cost of childcare is another factor to consider against expected wages or education costs. In some cases, financial help is available.

Suitable childcare may take some time to find, visit and arrange, so it may make sense to plan ahead.

The Daycare Trust advises parents to think first about their childcare needs and times of day to be covered, including issues like coverage early in the morning and extra help for older children during school holidays.

Childcare tax credits

Tax credits are payments from the government to working families and are paid into a person's bank or other account.

If a person works and pays for childcare, they may be able to get extra tax credits to help with the costs of looking after a child while at work. This is in addition to child benefit for eligible parents.

Registered or approved childcare providers have to be used and registration rules vary in different parts of the UK.

A single parent needs to work for 16 hours or more a week to qualify. For a couple, both have to work 16 hours or more a week, unless one of the partners is claiming disability benefits, in hospital or in prison. Family income also needs to be less than £32,200 per year or £26,000 for a single child.

Up to 70% of childcare could be covered up to a maximum of £175 a week for one child or £300 a week for two or more children.

Childcare from your employer

Some employers offer support with childcare. This could be by offering childcare vouchers or a workplace nursery or other directly provided facility. These benefits may be exempt from tax and national insurance.

A person would be liable for tax and national insurance for money given to them by an employer for childcare or if childcare fees are paid direct by the employer.

Childcare support while studying

Several schemes may be available for parents to help with childcare while they study.

Discretionary Learner Support

This may be available through a college for those 20 or over and in a further education course.

Childcare Grant

A parent in full-time higher education can apply for a Childcare Grant to help cover childcare costs for children under 15, or children under 17 with special needs.

Care to Learn

Care to Learn payments may be available to a parent aged under 20 and are paid direct to the childcare provider.

Free pre-school

Free early education may be available in some areas for 3-4 year olds at nursery schools, children’s centres, day nurseries, playgroups and pre-school, child minders and Sure Start Children’s Centres.

Some two year-olds in English local authorities may be entitled to free early education. Local authorities can give advice on what's available in an area.

Think creatively

Childcare costs can be kept down with help from family members. It may also be possible to share childminding duties with trusted friends or arrange a rota with other parents.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 29, 2012

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