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Using childcare costs Universal Credit to pay for childcare

Did you know that you might be entitled to childcare costs Universal Credit to cover up to 85% of any childcare costs you incur? Well, it’s a fact, and this blog will tell you everything you need to know about how to go about claiming it.


The Qualifying Factors for Receiving Universal Credit

If you (and your partner, where appropriate) are on a low income and need assistance with your living costs, you could qualify for childcare costs Universal Credit. First, you must meet the criteria for Universal Credit, and these are:

  • You must reside here in the UK.
  • Generally, you must be 18 years of age or over. Some exceptions apply to 16 and 17-year-olds.
  • You have to be under state pension age.
  • You should have only £16,000 or less in savings.

If you live with a partner, you must make a joint claim for Universal Credit to the DWP even though your partner may not be eligible. The amount you will be awarded will be dependent on you and your partner’s income and savings.

The Rules for Claiming Universal Credit Childcare Costs

If you are eligible and you are thinking of claiming childcare cost Universal Credit, you need to comply with certain rules.

Eligibility for Claiming Childcare Costs Universal Credit

Under normal circumstances, if you (and where appropriate, your partner, if you live with one) wish to apply for Childcare costs Universal Credit, You should:

  • Be in employment regardless of how many hours you work
  • Have a job offer

The whole point of Universal Credit help with childcare is to help provide you with an income base that allows you to go out to work.

The most you can claim monthly is £646 for a single child, or £1,108 for two or more children, providing you use a recognised Childcare service.

What is a Recognised Childcare Service?

To be entitled to claim help with Childcare costs Universal Credit you must use an approved service provider. These are:

  • Registered childminders or nannies, nurseries, clubs or playschemes.
  • A childminder or nanny from a registered childminding or childcare agency.
  • A registered school
  • A home-care worker employed by a registered home-care agency.

If you are curious about the childcare provider approval process, it depends on where you live. To confirm that a provider is approved, or to locate an approved service, refer by region as follows:

  • In England – Ofsted
  • In Northern Ireland – the Local Early Years’ Team Register
  • In Scotland – the Scottish Care Inspectorate
  • In Wales – Care Inspectorate Wales

Concerning childcare at school, you can only apply for Universal Credit childcare costs where the care is outside of normal school hours – this includes things like after-school clubs or breakfast clubs.

Universal Credit and childcare do not apply to your child’s state education or for private lessons taken during normal school hours.

Should your child not yet have started going to primary school, you can, for example, get help with paying fees for nursery school.

How to Go About Getting Childcare Support

We have explained the rules you have to comply with to claim childcare on Universal Credit, but if you would like additional help with determining if you can claim, you can use the government’s benefits calculator.

Universal Credit claims are usually made online. If you cannot complete an online application for some reason, you can contact the DWP by telephone.


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You inform the DWP of your need for childcare support via your Universal Credit online journal – the record you keep up to date while claiming Universal Credit. You will need to supply them with Universal Credit proof of childcare costs via copies of invoices or receipts from your childcare provider.

The Children Eligible for the Childcare Costs Universal Credit Element

The Universal Credit childcare costs element is available for children up to the age of 16. You are also entitled to claim for an additional child born before the 6th of April 2017. However, you cannot claim for a third child (or more) born after the 6th of April 2017 unless there are special circumstances to be taken into account.

Reporting Changes to Your Childcare Arrangements

If you have additional children or a child leaves home, you should inform the DWP within one month of the occurrence. You could be due for an increase in childcare costs Universal Credit, or you could be in for a decrease or cessation if a child:

  • Comes out of full-time, non-advanced education or approved training program.
  • Permanently leaves home
  • Is put into local authority care (excepting respite care).

Any such changes are to be reported through your online Universal Credit account.

How Do Universal Credit Pay Childcare?

The Universal Credit childcare cost payment is paid monthly, in arrears. The first payment could take up to five weeks to process. If you cannot manage during this period, you may be able to get an advance. Similarly, if your cash flow makes monthly payments problematic, you could be paid more frequently, say twice a month.

Payments can be made into an account bearing your name, such as a bank or building society account. You can view any payment details via your online Universal Credit account.

Childcare Costs during the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVUD-19 pandemic, you will be reimbursed for childcare on Universal Credit that you have paid for and that has taken place, providing that you meet the standard work and childcare cost conditions.

Paying for Childcare in Advance During the Outbreak

Should you have paid childcare costs in advance, your payment will be reimbursed as usual. In other words, payments will be split over a maximum of three assessment periods and paid at the end of each period. You will only be reimbursed for childcare that took place during the period in question.

If you paid in advance and no childcare was provided, no childcare costs universal credit reimbursements will be forthcoming.

In some instances, your childcare provider may have asked you for advance payments on the promise that care would be given when circumstances permit. However, you can only reclaim costs if the resumption occurs in the same period in which you paid or within the following two assessment periods.

No reimbursements will be made if your advance payment was a retainer to guarantee the child’s place.

Other Types of Help with Childcare Costs

The government and employers can provide other forms of help outside childcare costs Universal Credit. Schemes include tax-free childcare and free childcare for three to four-year-olds.


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