MORE than one million parents could be missing out on £3,800 on average in childcare every year.
Families are feeling the squeeze from the cost of living crisis and they might not know that they can get cash through the government's Tax-Free Childcare scheme.
Families could be missing out on £3,800 help with childcare costsCredit: Getty
That adds up to a maximum of £2,000 a year – or £4,000 a year if your child has disability.
But with around 1.3 million eligible families for the scheme, there are concerns many are missing out on the free help.
Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, said: “With the average family in the UK having 1.9 children, it means each family could be getting £3,800 on average towards their childcare costs each year – money that would go a long way to helping in the current bills crunch.”
As the summer holidays draw to a close, the government is also reminding families to check if they are eligible.
For every £8 paid into a Tax-Free Childcare online account, families will automatically receive an additional £2 in government top-up, and it is available for children aged up to 11, or 17 if the child has a disability.
Parents and carers are being urged to check their eligibility and register for Tax-Free Childcare via GOV.UK.
We explain who is eligible for the help and how to apply.
Who can get the help?
Your child must be aged under 11, which rises to 17 if they have a disability, to use the scheme – and there is other eligibility criteria you have to hit too.
You can usually get the help if you – and your partner, if you have one – are in work, on sick leave or annual leave, or are on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
If you're not working, you may be eligible for the help if you get one of the following benefits, and if your partner is still working:
- Incapacity Benefit
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
You are also expected to earn over a certain amount over the next three months too.
You're expected to earn at least £1,853.28, which is the National Living Wage for those over 23. Your partner must earn this too.
It's important to note you cannot get tax-free childcare at the same time as claiming Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers.
How do I apply?
You'll need to apply on the gov.uk website to set up an online account to start claiming the help.
You will need some personal information to hand – and your partner's too if you have one – including your National Insurance number or Unique Taxpayer Reference number if you are self-employed.
In your application, you will be assessed to see if you are eligible for the help, which can take up to seven days.
It takes 20 minutes to apply, so make sure you have some spare time for the application process.
If you are successful, you will have set up your own online account.
How it works is that for every £8 you pay into the account, the government will chip in £2 to pay to your childcare provider.
Is there any other help available?
Thousands of new parents on Universal Credit can get a £500 grant to help with childcare costs through the Sure Start grant.
The one-off payment doesn't need to be paid back and it won't reduce your monthly Universal Credit payment or tax credits.
The cash can be used to pay for anything that will ease the immediate financial strain on families when caring for a new baby.
New parents must have claimed the grant within 11 weeks in advance of their baby's due date or within six months after their child is born.
The Sun has put together a guide on how you can claim the grant.
arents of three and four-year-olds can apply for up to 30 hours free childcare a week.
To qualify you must work 16 hours a week on average at the national living or minimum wage and earn less than £100,000 a year.
But keep in mind you'll need to reconfirm your eligibility every three months.
This is in case your circumstances, such as your income or living situation, have changed.
You can register by creating a childcare account on the Gov.uk website.
Low income families with young children could be entitled to Healthy start vouchers to help you cover the cost of fresh food and drink for your kids – they're worth £221 a year per child.
And use a benefits calculator to see you're entitled to help – there's an estimated £13billion in unclaimed benefits you may be missing out on.
If you don't have children, don't worry because you could be eligible for other forms of support.
You can also find out about all the direct payments you could be eligible for to help with bills.
If you claim Universal Credit, we have broken down how your bills could rise next year based on inflation.