Children's costs

If you have cancer you may need extra help with children’s costs. Find out more about benefits and help with childcare, school and education costs.

Childcare costs

If you are living with cancer you may be able to get some help from the government towards childcare costs. This may include a certain amount of free childcare, or some money to help pay for childcare.

You can find out about the different types of support available from the government’s Childcare Choices website. You can also estimate how much help you can get using the free childcare calculator.

Benefits

Universal Credit (UC) has replaced tax credits for childcare for most people. If you already get tax credits for childcare, you do not need to do anything now. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in England, Scotland and Wales or Department for Communities (DfC) in Northern Ireland will contact you when it is time to change your claim.

If you get Universal Credit, your payment can include an amount to help with childcare costs. You and any partner living with you must be working or have a job offer. You can claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs for children under the age of 17. The most you can get back each month is:

  • £646.35 for one child
  • £1,108.04 for two or more children.

You can use this money to help pay:

  • registered childminders, nurseries and nannies
  • registered after-school clubs and play schemes
  • registered schools
  • home care workers working for a registered home care agency.

Housing Benefit does not help with childcare costs. But some of your childcare costs can be removed from the household income used to calculate Housing Benefit and council tax reduction. This means you could get more money.

You may also be able to get help with looking after children. This could be from:

  • social services – contact your local council in England, Scotland or Wales, or Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland
  • charities such as Home-Start
  • family and friends.

Flexible working (changes to your working hours) may also help, if this is possible for you. We have more information about your rights at work when you are affected by cancer.

We have more information about other benefits and financial support available.

Disability Living Allowance for children

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children is a benefit that may help with the extra costs of looking after a child with a disability.

You may be able to claim DLA for children if your child:

  • is aged under 16
  • has difficulty walking or needs extra care – more than a child of the same age who does not have a disability.

DLA for children is a tax-free benefit made up of two components (parts). A child may qualify for one or both components:

  • The care component – to help with the cost of extra care.
  • The mobility component – to help with supervising a child moving around outdoors.

What you could get

Each component is paid at a low, medium or high weekly rate, depending on your child’s needs:

  • Low rate – you could get a care component of £23.70 and a mobility component of £23.70.
  • Medium rate – you could get a care component of £60.00.
  • High rate – you could get a care component of £89.60 and a mobility component of £62.55.

For the mobility component, the child must be aged at least 3 to get the high rate and at least 5 to get the low rate.

You may qualify for Carer’s Allowance if you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a child who gets the middle or high care rate of DLA.

How to claim

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, visit GOV.UK. You can also call the Disability Living Allowance helpline on 0800 121 4600, or textphone 0800 121 4523 and ask for a DLA claim form. You can ask for alternative formats such as braille, large print, or audio CD.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you can download or print an application form at nidirect.gov.uk. You can also call the Disability and Carers Service on 0800 587 0912, or textphone 0800 012 1574 and ask for a claim pack. Or you can contact your local Jobs and Benefits office.

Child Disability Payment in Scotland

From Summer 2021, DLA for children will become the Child Disability Payment in Scotland. This means this benefit will start to move from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to Social Security Scotland.

This change will not affect the amount of benefit paid to you.

DLA for children is only offered until the child is 16 years old. Children in Scotland will continue to get Child Disability Payment until they turn 18. For those currently getting DLA for children, they will receive a letter from the DWP before they turn 16. This will let them know that Social Security Scotland will take over payment until they turn 18. In the next 2 years, all DLA children in Scotland will be moved to the Child Disability Payment.

New applications must be made to Social Security Scotland rather than the DWP.

If you need help or have any questions, you should contact the DWP on 0800 121 4600.

School and education costs

If you have children, you may be able to get help with costs for school meals, clothing and travel. The help you can get depends on your individual situation and where in the UK you live.

Free school meals

There are different rules about free school meals across the UK:

  • In England, school meals are free for all children at state school in reception, year 1 and year 2.
  • In Scotland, school meals are free for all children in primary school years 1, 2 and 3.
  • In Wales, all primary school children can have a free school breakfast.

In Northern Ireland, contact the Education Authority in your area to find out whether your child qualifies and how to apply.

In all parts of the UK, school meals are free for children whose parents or carers get certain benefits. These include:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit, if your household income is less than £7,400 a year, or £14,000 a year in Northern Ireland (after tax and not including any benefits you get)
  • Child Tax Credit (in certain cases)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on, paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.

In England, Scotland or Wales, contact your local council to find out whether your child qualifies and how to apply. You can find your local council’s contact details at GOV.UK.

In Northern Ireland, contact the Education Authority in your region.

School clothing

Many local councils give grants for school uniform (including sports kits) to families on a low income. If your council does not offer help, you can ask your child’s school.

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you may be able to get a school uniform grant. The criteria are like those for free school meals.

In England, Scotland or Wales, contact your local council to find out what help is available in your area and how to apply for it. You can find your local council’s contact details at GOV.UK.

In Northern Ireland, contact the Education Authority in your region.

School travel costs

Your local school, college or council, or the Education Authority in Northern Ireland may be able to help you with school travel costs. Contact them for more details.

Support for students aged over 16

If you are aged over 16, you may be able to get help with your education costs.

Educational Maintenance Allowance

Educational Maintenance Allowance is only available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This allowance helps young people aged 16 to 19 to stay in education. Whether you qualify depends on your household income (the income of adults who are responsible for you). If you qualify, you get £30 a week. This money is paid into your bank account every 2 weeks. It does not affect any benefits your household is getting.

In Scotland, contact your school, college or local council. Visit mygov.scot for more information.

In Wales, call 0300 200 4050 or visit studentfinancewales.co.uk to download an application form.

In Northern Ireland, you can download a form at nidirect.gov.uk or collect one from your school, college or local Social Security or Jobs and Benefits office. If you have any queries, call the Education Maintenance Allowance helpline on 0300 200 7089.

16 to 19 bursary fund

The 16 to 19 bursary fund is only available to students in England.

Students aged 16 to 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 clothing, books, equipment, transport and lunch. It is not available to people at university. For more information visit GOV.UK.

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

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 Learner Support scheme. The funds are for those facing financial hardship. They can be used to help with things like:

  • accommodation and travel
  • course materials and equipment
  • childcare (you must be aged 20 or over to qualify for help with childcare costs).

Check with your college to see if this option is available to you. For more information, visit GOV.UK.

About our information


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by Macmillan professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Sean Conroy, Macmillan Welfare Rights and Energy Advice Team Service Manager.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.