New to Universal Credit

9. Children and childcare

Your children

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

Children up to the age of 16

You can apply for Universal Credit regardless of how many children you have. If your claim is successful, your Universal Credit payment may include an extra amount of money for dependent children who you have the main responsibility for.

Who has main responsibility is largely the same as for other benefits and tax credits. In general, if you are able to claim Child Benefit for a child then they should be included in your Universal Credit claim.

You will be entitled to an extra child amount for any child born before 6 April 2017. However, you will not be entitled to an extra child amount for a third or following child born on or after 6 April 2017 unless special circumstances apply.

Read more about the rules for families with more than 2 children

Use a benefits calculator to find out what you may be able to get.

16 to 19 year old children

You may get the extra child amount for children aged 16 to 19 if they are attending or enrolled in full-time, non-advanced education or on approved training. If they are not in education or training, you will not get the extra child amount.

Disabled children

You may get extra money if your dependent child is disabled. This disabled child addition is paid at either a higher rate or a lower rate. You can receive the disabled child addition even if the child it’s for isn’t one you get an extra child amount for.

A change of circumstances relating to your children

If you have more children, or if one of your children leaves your home, you need to tell the Department for Work and Pensions within one month to make sure your family gets the right payment. You can do this using your online account. You may get an extra child amount if, for example, you have a baby. You may stop getting the extra child amount if, for example, your child:

  • leaves full-time, non-advanced education or approved training
  • leaves home
  • goes into local authority care (except for respite care)
  • is in prison, or in custody awaiting trial or sentence

Read further information for families

Childcare costs

If you are working, Universal Credit can help with the costs of childcare, no matter how many hours you work.

You may be able to claim up to 85 per cent of your childcare costs if you’re eligible for Universal Credit and meet some additional conditions. The amounts you can receive in childcare costs are:

  • a maximum of £646.35 per month for one child
  • a maximum of £1108.04 per month for 2 or more children

Childcare support is paid in arrears. This means that you will usually pay the costs yourself, and Universal Credit will then pay you some of that money back. If you think you need help with the costs at the time you pay them, you should discuss this with your work coach.

You’ll need to inform the Department for Work and Pensions of the cost of the childcare by the end of the assessment period after the one in which you’ve paid the childcare charges. You can do this by signing into your Universal Credit account

It’s important to note that you will only be paid back for childcare that has taken place during your assessment period. This means that if you pay for more than one month’s childcare in an assessment period – for example if you pay for a whole term – the money you get back at the end of that assessment period will only cover any childcare that has actually taken place during it. The rest of the payments you are entitled to will be paid in later months, once the childcare has taken place. These payments can be split over a maximum of 3 assessment periods.

If you have accepted a job offer you can claim for childcare costs for the month before you start work. Talk to your work coach as soon as possible about your job offer and the support options available. If your job comes to an end, you must tell the Department for Work and Pensions immediately.

Support with childcare costs can be claimed for at least a month after your employment ends to help you maintain your childcare as you move between jobs.

The amount you earn can affect how much you receive from Universal Credit. If your earnings are higher than usual in an assessment period this can reduce your Universal Credit payments, including the help you get towards childcare costs. Read more about Universal Credit and work

You cannot get help towards any payments that were made using childcare vouchers. If your childcare costs are higher than the value of your vouchers, you can apply for help towards that additional amount.

Earnings that are converted into childcare vouchers are not included when working out reductions to your Universal Credit payment.

Childcare costs during the coronavirus outbreak

If you are getting Universal Credit, you will be reimbursed costs for childcare that has taken place and you have already paid for.

You will continue to be reimbursed for childcare costs with your Universal Credit if you are a critical worker or if you are a non-critical worker who has access to registered childcare.

Paying for childcare in advance during coronavirus

If you pay for your childcare in advance, payments will be reimbursed in the normal way, which means the cost can be split across a maximum of 3 assessment periods. At the end of each assessment period, the costs for childcare used in that assessment period will be reimbursed.

It’s important to note that – at the end of any assessment period – you can only be reimbursed for childcare that has actually taken place during that assessment period.

If you pay (and report) advance childcare costs for a future assessment period, but no childcare actually takes place during that time, you will not be able to reclaim those costs as part of your Universal Credit claim.

Your childcare provider might ask to keep an advance payment, saying that it will cover your costs whenever your childcare resumes. Please note that you will only be able to reclaim these costs if the childcare resumes during the assessment period in which you made the payment, or within the next 2 assessment periods after that.

Your childcare provider might ask for a sum of money to keep a place for your child – this is sometimes known as a retainer. This is not eligible for reimbursement unless it is actually an advance payment for childcare costs.

How to get childcare support

You must be in paid work to receive childcare support from Universal Credit.

If you are a claiming with a partner both of you normally need to be in work to receive this help. However, 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

Paid work does not include voluntary work where the only payment is expenses.

In some circumstances you can be treated as if you are in paid work while you are not working. Childcare support is available if you are claiming Universal Credit and are receiving:

  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Shared Parental Pay
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Maternity Allowance

You must be paying childcare costs to registered or approved childcare providers.

This generally means the childcare provider is registered with one of these organisations:

  • England – OFSTED
  • Scotland – The Care Inspectorate
  • Wales – Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW)

Approved childcare can include care provided in school or in another place by a child minder, play-scheme, nursery or club. Your approved childcare provider should be able to provide you with a registration number.

Further information

For more information see the Universal Credit childcare guide

The Universal Credit childcare offer is part of the package of support available for parents and guardians, which may include free childcare for 15 or 30 hours a week. To find out more visit the Childcare Choices website. You can also read further information for families on Universal Credit, children and childcare.

Check whether you could be eligible for government childcare support using the Childcare Calculator

Watch this short guide for parents and guardians that sets out the steps to apply for 30 hours childcare and Tax-Free Childcare: