WORKING parents can claim £13,000 a year worth of free childcare under Universal Credit – and more than half a million may be missing out.
Just 38 per cent of the 1million households with children on Universal Credit are claiming childcare support, which means up to 680,000 may be missing out.
But there is a catch – you have to pay for the childcare upfront yourself, after which you can claim back up to 85 per cent of costs up to a maximum of £646 a month for one child, or up to £1,108 a month for two or more children.
The Sun has been calling for childcare costs to be handed to parents upfront as part of our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
It comes as one mum told us how she was forced to take out payday loans to fund childcare, while another says she can only afford £1 pizza and chips due to sky-high childcare costs.
Minister for welfare delivery, Will Quince, said: “Any working parent can appreciate the difficulties of having to balance a job with looking after the kids, and I want to make it easier for parents who want to go back to work after having children."
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
If you can afford upfront childcare payments, and you use a registered childcare provider (more on this below), here's how to claim costs back.
Who can claim childcare support under Universal Credit?
Working families in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales could be eligible for help if their kids are under the age of 17.
Children aged between 16 and 19 may even be eligible for support if they are enrolled in full-time, non-advance education or training.
You may also get extra money if your child is disabled.
To claim, you need to be in work, and if a parent is claiming with a partner you both normally need to be in work.
There are exceptions though, for example you may be able to get childcare support if one of you is not working and is unable to provide childcare themselves because they:
- have limited capability for work
- have caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person
- are temporarily absent from the household.
Those claiming the following support will also be eligible for childcare help:
- statutory sick pay
- statutory maternity pay
- Statutory Paternity Pay
- statutory shared parental pay
- statutory adoption pay
- maternity allowance
You can even claim for childcare costs for the month before you start work if you have accepted a job offer, and for at least a month after your employment ends.
Childcare can include services from a child minder, play-scheme, nursery or club – but the childcare provider must be registered or approved.
This typically means OFSTED-registered in England, The Care Inspectorate-registered in Scotland, and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales-registered.
How to claim childcare costs under Universal Credit
To start your claim, you just need to speak to your Jobcentre work coach.
Give them the name, address and registration number of your childcare provider and the full costs of your childcare.
If you’re struggling to afford the upfront costs you can get help from the flexible support fund.
Unlike an advance payment, the money you receive is a grant rather than a loan, so you don't have to pay it back.
Ask your work coach how to apply.
Am I entitled to more childcare help?
You may be entitled to more childcare help.
For example, all three- and four-year-old children in England are entitled to 570 hours of free childcare per year.
And if you are claiming Universal Credit you may be able to get up to 30 hours free childcare if your child is three- to four-years-old.
If you're in England and on Universal Credit, you can also get free childcare for two-year-olds (there are different schemes in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales).
You can't claim tax-free childcare if you're claiming Universal Credit.
From tax-free childcare to free nursery hours, we've rounded-up the childcare help worth £25,000-plus parents may be missing out on.
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