Help with Childcare Costs

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Are you struggling with the cost of your childcare? Whatever your circumstances, you may be entitled to help. Find information on the types of financial help that may be available to you if you are using Registered or Approved Childcare.

What are Childcare Costs?

Childcare costs refers to the money that you pay to your Childcare Provider for caring for/looking after your child or children, usually so you can attend work, training or full-time education.

Employers For Childcare's latest annual Childcare Survey 2019 found the average cost of a full-time childcare place in Northern Ireland to be £166 per week.

With such a high proportion of your income going towards childcare costs, it is important to make sure you are receiving all the financial support you are entitled to.

Can I get help towards my Childcare Costs?

There are different types of help towards childcare costs, with support available through the benefits system or tax relief.  It is important to be aware that regardless of your circumstances, even if you are working, in a couple or single, you may still be entitled to help.  

There may be different criteria in place that you must meet to be eligible to apply for help towards your childcare costs.

You should read the criteria for each scheme or benefit carefully, as they may be different, but the most common criteria to qualify may specify:

  • working a minimum number of hours
  • children not to be over a certain age
  • household income not to exceed a certain amount
  • childcare provider must be registered or approved

What help is available?

The main forms of support with the cost of childcare are outlined further down this article.  The amount of financial support you may be entitled to receive on each of those schemes will depend on your circumstances.  It is therefore important to contact a Family Benefits Advisor, who will help you work out the most beneficial source of support for your family.

  • Employers For Childcare Family Benefits Advice Service - provide free, confidential and impartial advice setting out your best options for support, and what is the best choice for your family depending on your specific circumstances. The Advisors are available on Freephone 0800 028 3008 Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm, or by emailing  (Last year, the team identified an average of £3,589 in financial support for parents who asked for a personal benefits check)
  • Childcare Choices - this is the new government website that shows the different types of help there is available towards your childcare costs
  • Financial Help if you have children - a list of all the different benefits you may be able to claim depending on your circumstances
  • Childcare Costs Calculator - an online calculator which will work out how much money you could get towards registered or approved childcare

The Main Forms of Support with the Cost of Childcare:

You can find more information on the main forms of support with the cost of childcare below:

Working Tax Credit  

Working Tax Credit is money provided to boost the income of working people who are on a low income.

Childcare Vouchers   

Childcare Vouchers are a Government scheme aimed at helping working parents with the cost of childcare. Childcare Vouchers are accepted by childcare providers across Northern Ireland and can be used to pay for all types of childcare as long as it is approved or registered.

This scheme was closed to new entrants on 4th October 2018, however, those that had already signed up can continue to use it.

Parents who had joined the scheme before it closed, remain eligible provided they:

  • joined the scheme prior to 4 October 2018
  • make at least one salary sacrifice (more than £0) within each 52 week period
  • do not leave the scheme in order to use Tax-Free Childcare, and
  • do not change employer

Universal Credit  

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work, which merges together some of the benefits and tax credits that you might be getting now. Universal Credit will replace: Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment, Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.  

Your Universal Credit payment can include an amount to help with the costs of looking after your child or children.

Tax Free Childcare  

Tax-Free Childcare is a government scheme available to working parents with children under 12 years old, or under 17 years old with a disability.  

Eligible parents can get up to £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 per disabled child per year,  to spend on qualifying childcare.  

For parents with 2 children, it could be a £4000 per year saving on the family’s budget.  

Tax-Free Childcare isn’t just for everyday childcare costs, such as; childminders, nurseries and nannies, parents can also use it to pay towards the cost of (qualifying):  

  • after school clubs 
  • play schemes
  • holiday clubs
  • summer camps
  • school holiday activities

Tax-Free Childcare is available to both employees and the self-employed.  

Registered and Approved Childcare

If you are entitled to help with your childcare costs, you must be using a Registered or Approved Childcare Provider. Family Support NI is the public childcare register, which lists all Childcare Providers that are Registered or Approved with Health & Social Services within Northern Ireland. Search for Registered and Approved Childcare at Family Support NI.

Helpful videos for Childcare Providers:

If you are a childcare provider you may find the following links/video useful. They are designed to help HMRC customers understand tax and comply with the rules:

HMRC YouTube Page  

Webinars for self employed childminders, foster carers & shared lives   

Related Documents

HSC Birth to Five Years Booklet - Benefits and your Rights in the Workplace

EFC Childcare Survey 2019

EFC Childcare Vouchers

EFC Guide to Tax Free Childcare Sept 20

Last Updated: 24/11/2020