Written by: Cally Worden
Childcare is one of the killer costs of having kids. You need to work to earn money to live, but when you do, you can’t be around to mind your child. Childcare costs are a given for many working families. Not everyone can afford for one parent to remain at home, even though the majority of a second salary may be eaten-up in childcare costs. So when you’re stuck in between this rock and hard place, every little contribution to your childcare costs can count. Here’s how to get help with childcare costs.
Childcare Tax Credits
These are available to single parents who work 16 hours or more per week, or couples who both meet this criteria, unless one is in hospital or prison, receiving a carer’s allowance, or is in receipt of certain other benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance, for example.
If you are eligible, you may be able to claim up to ¬£122.50 per week for your first child, or ¬£210 per week for two or more kids. The amount you receive will depend on your income, and the regularity of your childcare payments.
Help from your Employer
There are various ways in which employers can assist with childcare costs, the most effective being those which are exempt from National Insurance contributions. These are:
- Workplace nurseries
- Vouchers for childcare
- Contracted childcare that is arranged directly by your employer with a specific service provider
Any of these may be classed as additional benefits in your employment contract, or fall under the ‘Salary Sacrifice’ scheme, where you employer deducts some or all of the costs incurred from your salary. In the case of Salary Sacrifice your annual income will be affected, which may alter the amount of other tax credits you are eligible for. Use one of the many online calculators to help you work out whether this kind of childcare assistance is actually a help, or a hindrance to your childcare cost battle.
Support While Studying
Those parents aged 20 and over who are undertaking a course of further education may qualify for Discretionary Learner Support to help with the costs of childcare. Most colleges run their own scheme, so if you are in this situation have a chat with your college admin team.
Any parent in full time higher education is able to apply for a Childcare Grant to contribute to the costs of childcare for youngsters under the age of 15, or the age of 17 if the child has special needs.
Finally, under the Care to Learn scheme payments may be made directly to your chosen childcare provider. This benefit is usually reserved for young people under the age of 20 who are responsible for arranging their own childcare.
Sadly there seems to be no scheme out there that promises to cover all childcare costs for all working parents all of the time. Knowing your rights can put you in a better position and may just add a few pounds towards your childcare costs. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. So empower yourself today and claim whatever you can to help ease the burden.