Skip to Content
Back to A-Z Help pages index

Childcare overview

Can I get the Childcare Costs element of Universal Credit

You may get support with registered or approved childcare, in the form of the Childcare Costs element of Universal Credit, if you:

  • receive the Universal Credit Child element for this child (or would if it were not for the 2 child limit)
  • are in paid work, or
  • have accepted an offer of paid work and are due to start work before the end of your next assessment period, and
  • you pay for childcare so you can take up or continue paid work.

You can also get the Childcare Costs element for a month after you have stopped work, for existing childcare arrangements.

If you are absent from work and receiving;

  • Statutory Sick Pay; or
  • Statutory Maternity Pay; or
  • Statutory Adoption Pay; or
  • Statutory Paternity Pay (including both Ordinary and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay); or
  • Maternity Allowance;

you can still be treated as being in paid work and get the Childcare Costs element to help with charges for childcare arrangements that were in place before your leave began.

What happens if you have a partner?

If you are part of a couple, to qualify for the Childcare Costs element the other member of the couple must also be in paid work, or be unable to provide childcare because they:

  • have limited capability for work or limited capability for work related activity
  • care for a severely disabled adult or severely disabled child and satisfy the Carer Test
  • are temporarily absent from the household (for example, in custody, hospital or residential care)

Childcare providers

To get the Childcare Costs element, the childcare you pay for must be with an Ofsted registered or approved childcare provider. You can use more than one childcare provider and you must be able to report all their details.

Which children are eligible for the Childcare Costs element?

Childcare costs can only be claimed for a dependent child up to the 31 August following the child's 16th birthday.

When the Childcare element can't be paid

If part of your childcare costs are paid for by someone else (for example by an employer or a through a work programme scheme) you can only claim for the remaining balance.

The amount of the Childcare Costs element

The Childcare Costs element of Universal Credit pays for 85% of your paid out childcare costs up to a monthly limit of £951 for one child and £1,630 for two or more children. These increased from £646.35 for one child or £1,108.04 for two or more children on 28 June 2023.

Although there is no rule for the number of hours you must be in paid work in order to qualify for support with childcare costs, this support can be reduced if it is thought that your childcare costs are excessive for the number of hours you are in paid work.

The information you need to report

To get the Childcare Costs element you will need to give information about your childcare for each child, for example:

  • full name and childcare registration number of the provider
  • full contact details of the childcare provider - for example, address, telephone number and manager's name
  • address where the child is being looked after
  • the full cost of your childcare

If you share your childcare responsibilities with someone else, for example an ex-partner, you must report what arrangements you have made.

Reporting changes to your childcare arrangements

You must report any changes, either permanent or for limited period of time, by contacting Universal Credit. These changes may include:

  • if the childcare provider stops being approved or registered
  • changes to the hours you and/or your partner work
  • if you change your childcare provider
  • if the child is no longer with you or you are no longer responsible for the child