Financial help with childcare and costs

If you have a child in education there may be financial support available to you:

  • Child Tax Credit is a payment given to parents and carers of children or young people in full-time education. It is a means-tested benefit. In England, Scotland and Wales, Child Tax Credit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit. Call the HMRC Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900 or textphone 0345 300 3909 to apply.

If you are a young person aged 16-19 you may be able to find help with your studies:

  • Educational Maintenance Allowance helps young people aged 16-19 in Scotland and Wales stay in education.
  • In England, the 16-19 Bursary Fund is for young people who may struggle with the costs of full-time education. They can receive a bursary of up to £1,200.
  • Some colleges may have grants and funds available through the Discretionary Learner Support scheme to help with the cost of learning for students aged 19 or over. Payments may help for accommodation, travel costs or childcare costs.

Contact your college or local authority to find out what options are available to you.

You may also be able to get financial help with school clothing and meals.

Financial help with childcare and costs

Child Tax Credit

This is a payment made to parents and carers of children or young people still in education. You don’t have to be working to claim it. It’s means-tested (based on your level of income and savings) and not based on national insurance contributions. The person claiming must be at least 16.

To qualify, you or your partner must be responsible for a child or young person who normally lives with you. A child is someone under 16. A young person is someone aged 16–19 who’s in full-time non-advanced education (not a university degree) or approved training.

The Child Tax Credit you can get is made up of several elements (amounts of money). These include a family element and a child element for each child in the family. There are extra amounts for children with disabilities.

Important changes to Child Tax Credit

Child Tax Credit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit. If you’re already getting Child Tax Credit, you’ll continue to do so either until your circumstances change or until the DWP decides to transfer your claim to Universal Credit. Contact a welfare rights adviser for more information.

Once Child Tax Credit has been replaced by Universal Credit, there will also be an extra amount of money included in Pension Credit if you have dependent children (and have reached the Pension Credit qualifying age). When this will happen is yet to be decided.

How can I claim?

Call the HMRC tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900, or textphone 0345 300 3909.


Changes to Child Tax Credit

In England, Scotland and Wales, Child Tax Credit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit. If you’re already getting Child Tax Credit, you’ll continue to do so either until your circumstances change or until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides to transfer your claim to Universal Credit. Contact a welfare rights adviser for more information.

In Northern Ireland, similar changes are expected but the Welfare Reform Bill is still under consideration. Check nidirect.gov.uk for the latest news on expected changes to the benefits system in Northern Ireland. Contact a welfare rights adviser to find out how these changes may affect you.


How can I claim?

Call the HMRC Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900, or textphone 0345 300 3909

Important changes

You may no longer qualify for Child Tax Credit if your annual household income is above £26,000.


Educational Maintenance Allowance (Scotland and Wales only)

This allowance helps young people aged 16–19 to stay in education. The amount paid is based on the income of the adults who are responsible for the young person. It won’t affect any benefits they’re claiming.

How can I apply?

In Scotland, contact your school/college or local authority or visit emascotland.com

In Wales, call 0845 602 8845 or visit studentfinancewales.co.uk

Your local authority or college may also be able to help with the travel costs to school or college. Contact them for more details.


16–19 bursary fund (England only)

Students aged 16–19 who might struggle with the cost of full-time education or training, may be eligible for a bursary of up to £1,200 a year. It can be used for costs like equipment, lunch and transport. It is not available for university study.

How can I apply?

Speak to your school, college, academy or training provider about how to apply for a bursary.


Discretionary Learner Support

Some colleges, including sixth form colleges, have loans, grants or funds to help people aged 19 or over with learning costs.

In some cases this will come from the Discretionary Learner Support scheme. The funds are prioritised for those facing financial hardship. They can be used to help with:

  • financial hardship and emergencies
  • childcare costs (if you qualify)
  • accommodation costs, for those who have to study a certain distance from home
  • essential course-related equipment, materials and field trips
  • travel costs.

Check locally with your college to see whether this is an option available to you.


Free school meals (England only)

Children in reception, year one or year two at a state school automatically get free meals. School meals are free for children whose parents or carers receive certain benefits, including Universal Credit, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Child Tax Credit (in certain cases).

How can I apply?

Contact your local authority to see whether your child qualifies and how to apply.


School clothing

Most local authorities give grants for school clothing to families on a low income.

How can I apply?

Contact your local authorityempty to find out what help is available in your area and how to apply for it.


School clothing in Northern Ireland

Pupils are entitled to a school uniform grant if their parents or carers receive Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, the guarantee credit of Pension Credit or Child Tax Credit (in certain cases).

How can I apply?

Contact your local education and library board.


Disability Living Allowance in Northern Ireland

Disability Living Allowance is available for children in Northern Ireland.

How can I apply?

For benefits information and support in Northern Ireland please visit nidirect.gov.uk or call 0800 232 1271.


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