Tax-free childcare scheme: Parents can get up to £2,000 towards summer camps and childcare

With the school holidays already underway, working parents across the UK don’t need to worry about paying for the full cost of childcare.

Are you missing out on money to help with your childcare? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Are you missing out on money to help with your childcare? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Thanks to a government scheme parents might not be aware of, up to £2,000 can be claimed per child per year (including during the summer holidays) to pay for childcare costs.

What’s the scheme?

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This money is available through something called the government’s ‘tax-free childcare scheme’ which parents can put towards things like:

- Childminders, nurseries and nannies

- After school clubs and play schemes

- Home care agencies

The childcare providers need to be signed up to the scheme and approved by the government in order for you to be able to claim the money.

The government website states, “You can get up to £500 every 3 months (£2,000 a year) for each of your children to help with the costs of childcare.”

Check online if your childcare provider has been approved:

- Scotland: The Scottish Care Inspectorate

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- England: Ofsted

- Wales: The Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales

- Northern Ireland: The local early years team register

How to know if you’re eligible

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Your eligibility for the scheme depends on a few different factors, according to the government website.

These are:

- If you’re working

- How much you’re earning

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- Your child’s age and circumstances

- Your nationality

If you have a partner, their employment and income could affect your eligibility if:

- You’re married or in a civil partnership and live together

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- Not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are

Your partner will not affect your eligibility if they are or will be absent from your household for more than six months, or are a prisoner.

If you (and your partner, if applicable) are in work, on sick or annual leave, or on parental leave, you are able to apply for the tax-free childcare scheme.

You do need to be earning a certain amount in order to be eligible - over the next three months, you’d need to earning the national minimum wage for 16 hours a week on average.

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The example that the government cites is “over the next three months you expect to earn at least £1,707.68 - the National Living Wage for people over 25.”

If you have a partner, they’d be expected to earn at least this much as well.

Child eligibility

The child that you’re claiming for must be 11 years or under and usually live with you. Adopted children are eligible for the scheme, but unfortunately foster children are not.

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If your child is disabled, you can claim up to £4,000 a year until their 17th birthday. They are eligible for this if they:

- Get Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Armed Forces Independence Payment

- Are certified as blind or severely sight-impaired

Your nationality

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If you’re from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), and your UK residence card says you cannot access public funds, you won’t be able to claim money through this scheme.

The EEA includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

If you have a partner, they can apply instead if you’re from:

- The UK or the EEA

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- Outside the EEA, but their UK residence card says they are permitted to access public funds

How to apply

If you think you’re eligible to benefit from the scheme, you can apply online.

You (and your partner) will need:

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- National Insurance number

- Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed

It takes around 20 minutes to apply for the scheme.

As part of your application, as well as finding out if you’re eligible for the tax-free childcare scheme, you’ll also be told if you’re able to claim 30 hours of free childcare.

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You can find out straight away, but it can also take up to seven days.

Apply on the government website here.What if I’m claiming other benefits?

If you're already claiming:

- Working Tax Credit

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- Child Tax Credit

- Universal Credit

- Childcare vouchers

You cannot claim money through the tax-free childcare scheme as well.

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You can use this childcare calculator from the government website to figure out what scheme would work best for you and your situation.