Help with Childcare Costs

Child Care Costs

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

Here are details of the Child Care Grant eligibility criteria as well as further options for help with child care costs if you are ineligible.


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.


2018 /2019 academic year

The maximum you can get is:

  • up to £164.70 a week for 1 child
  • up to £282.36 a week for 2 or more children

If you don’t complete details about your childcare provider on your application form, your first payment will be a maximum of £123.38 a week or 85% of your estimate (whichever is lower).

You can make an application to SFE using a CCG1 form.

Your child care provider will need to complete a CCG2 form at the end of the claim period and SFE will reconcile the amount paid to you in advance with the actual amount paid to your child care provider.  You should note that SFE will require immediate repayment of any overpayment.


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 £122.50 a week for one child or £210 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 = £646.35 per month
For two or more children = £1108.04 per month

Unlike Universal Credit 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.

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

Childcare Vouchers

Most employers are signed up to a childcare voucher scheme.  This allows each working parent to receive up to £243 per month in childcare vouchers, the cost of which is deducted from your gross pay.  As you do not pay tax and national insurance on this amount you are effectively “saving” 20% of the cost of the vouchers.

These schemes are now closed to new applicants as of 4th October 2018 although existing applicants will be able to continue to use them.  The only eligibility criteria for the childcare voucher scheme is that you are in employment and paying income tax and making National Insurance contributions.  Enquiries should be made to your employer for more information on the scheme they subscribe to.

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
  • tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • 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:

  • they’re looked after by a local council
  • they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption 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 - this is £120 if you’re over 25

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: