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Child Care Costs

Child Care Costs

Most students can expect to get help with child care costs through a Student Finance England (SFE) Child Care Grant but, as this is means tested, not everyone is eligible.

SFE operate the Childcare Grant as follows: 

  • The Childcare Grant is worked out as an annual maximum amount (which is means tested) and this is paid to a third party - the Child Care Grant Payment Service (CCGPS).
  • Childcare Providers will have to bill the CCGPS for the full amount either on a weekly basis or for multiple weeks at a time (i.e. once a month). We advise you check with your provider to ask how they will choose to do this. This bill is then presented to the student for approval.
  • It will be split into 85% (subject to a weekly cap) which the CCGPS will pay out of your Childcare Grant and 15% (plus any amount above the weekly cap) that you will have to pay yourself.
  • Any left-over money at the end of the year will be paid back to Student Finance England – not to the student or to the childcare provider.

Child Care Grant from SFE

You can get up to 85% of your childcare costs paid.

The amount you’ll get depends on:

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

If your household income exceeds £20,000 per annum, it is unlikely you will be eligible for SFE Child Care Grants, and a tapered reduction will be applied to all household income above £9,500 per annum.

Details regarding ChildCare Grant can be accessed:

2024/25 academic year

The maximum you can get is:

  • up to £193.62 a week for 1 child
  • up to £331.95 a week for 2 or more children

Household income over £20,000?

If your household income is above this amount then it is unlikely that you will get any assistance with the cost of your child care, so you will need to look at other ways to fund this. 

Childcare element of Working Tax Credits

You can get up to 70% of your childcare costs through the Working Tax Credit scheme if you meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • In one-parent household, the parent must work 16 hours or more 
  • In two parent households, both parents must work 16 hours or more, unless one partner is on certain benefits or national insurance credits for sickness or disability (for example, getting Employment and Support Allowance), in hospital, in prison, or a carer entitled to Carer’s Allowance

The amount you’ll get depends on:

  • Your household income

The maximum you can get is £175.00 a week for one child or £300 for two or more children.  However, you may get less than this depending on the amount you earn.

Apply for Working Tax Credits here

Childcare Element of Universal Credit

If you are in receipt of Universal Credit or have a change in circumstances that triggers a move to Universal Credit then you can get up to 85% of eligible child care costs.  There is an upper limit of how much you can claim this is:

For one child = £950.92 per month
For two or more children = £1630.15 per month

Unlike legacy benefits, those parents working less than 16 hours per week can qualify for child care costs.  Claimants must notify child care costs on a monthly basis and are paid in arrears.

We would strongly suggest that if you think you will have to move to Universal Credit that you contact the Advice Centre first.

Find out more about Universal Credit here

Tax Free Childcare (TFC)

This scheme is open now and will be the only scheme available after October 2019.  It has considerably more eligibility conditions:

Your child should be:

  •  under 12, or 17 if they're registered as having a disability
  • usually live with you

You (and your partner, if you have one) should be:

  • aged 16 or over
  • live or work in the UK
  • employed or self-employed
  • earn on average at least £120 a week if aged over 21, unless in your first year of self-employment. Different rates apply if you're under 21 or an apprentice
  • earn less than £100,000 a year each
  • not getting support with your childcare from other sources including childcare vouchers or salary sacrifice scheme

You may also be eligible if you have a partner and one of you gets any of the following benefits:

  • Carers Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Benefit

If you are part of a couple and only one of you works you will not be able to claim this funding, as you must both be working at least 21 hours a week

If you meet the eligibility criteria above, the Government will contribute £2 for every £8 you pay into the scheme, subject to a maximum of £2000 Government Contribution per child, per year.

Details can be found here:

Free Childcare places for 2 year olds

Your 2-year-old can get up to 570 hours of free early education and childcare if you live in England and get one 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
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit (or both), and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order

If you’re eligible the free early education and childcare:

Contact your childcare provider or local council to find out more.

15 hours of free funding for all 3 and 4 year olds

All children in England get 570 free hours per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but you can choose to take fewer hours over more weeks, for example.

You can get it from the term after your child’s 3rd birthday.

Contact your childcare provider or local council to find out more, you will usually apply through your child care provider for this funding. 

Additional 15 hours for certain 3 and 4 year olds (so 30 funded hours in total)


You can usually get 30 hours free childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:

  • in work - or getting parental leave, sick leave or annual leave
  • each earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week - from April 2021 this is £142 if you’re over 23

This earnings limit doesn’t apply if you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago.

You’re not eligible if:

  • your child doesn’t usually live with you
  • the child is your foster child
  • either you or your partner has a taxable income over £100,000

You can get 30 hours free childcare at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, tax credits or childcare vouchers.

If you can’t work

You may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

In order to apply for 30 hours free childcare you’ll need your details (and your partner’s, if you have one), including your:

  • National Insurance number
  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed

It takes 20 minutes to apply. You may find out if you’re eligible straight away, but it can take up to 7 days.

You’ll get a childcare account if your application is successful. You can use it to get your code for 30 hours free childcare, please click here to apply.

Financial Support Fund

Whilst at Plymouth University, students who are struggling financially are able to make an application to the University’s Financial Support Fund.  Applications will be assessed taking into account your financial circumstances and any help you are already receiving.  Successful applicants will receive a percentage of any shortfall between income and expenditure.

Details of how to apply can be found here:


                                                                                                      Last updated May 2022