If you are living with cancer you may need extra help with childcare costs. Help from the government might be available. This might 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 its free childcare calculator.
Universal Credit 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) 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 17. The most you can get back each month is:
- £646.35 for 1 child
- £1,108.04 for 2 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 provide support with childcare costs. However, some of your childcare costs can be deducted from the household income used to calculate Housing Benefit and council tax reduction. This means you could qualify for 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 – visit home-start.org.uk
- family and friends.
Flexible working (changes to your working hours) may also help, if this is possible for you.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children is a benefit that may help with the 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).
There are two components (parts) to DLA for children. Your 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 (the child must be aged at least three to get the high rate, and at least five to get the low rate.
What you could get
Each component is paid weekly at a low, medium or high weekly rate, depending on your child’s needs:
- Low rate – you could get a care component of £23.60 and a mobility component of £23.60.
- Medium rate – you could get a care component of £59.70.
- High rate – you could get a care component of £89.15 and a mobility component of £62.25.
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 from nidirect.gov.uk You can also call the Disability and Carers Service on 0800 587 0912 or textphone 028 9021 1092 and ask for a claim pack. Or you can contact your local Jobs and Benefits office.
If you have children, you may be able to get help with costs for school meals, school clothing and travel. The help you are entitled to will depend 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 one and year two.
- In Scotland, school meals are free for all children in primary school years one, two and three.
- In Wales, all primary school children can have a free school breakfast.
- In Northern Ireland, contact the Education Authority in your region 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:
- 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
- Income Support income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or the guarantee element of Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit – in certain cases
- Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.
Contact your local council to find out whether your child qualifies and how to apply:
In Northern Ireland, contact the Education Authority in your region. Visit www.eani.org.uk
Many local councils give grants for school clothing, including PE 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 similar to 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.
School travel costs
You may also be able to get help with school travel costs from your local school, college or council, or from the Education Authority in Northern Ireland. Contact them for more details.
Educational Maintenance Allowance
Educational Maintenance Allowance is only available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This allowance helps young people aged 16 to 19 stay in education. The amount is based on the income of the adults who are responsible for the young person. If you qualify, you get £30 a week. This money is paid into your bank account every 2 weeks. It will not affect any benefits the adult is claiming.
In Scotland, contact your school, college or local council. Visit mygov.scot for more information.
In Wales, call 0300 200 4050 or visit the Student Finance Wales website to download an application form.
In Northern Ireland, you can download a form from nidirect.gov.uk or collect one from your school, college or local Social Security or Jobs and Benefits office. You can call the Education Maintenance Allowance helpline on 0300 200 7089 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) for more information.
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 equipment, lunch and transport. It is not available to people at university. For more information visit gov.uk/1619-bursary-fund
Speak to the school, college, academy or training provider about how to apply for a bursary.
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 prioritised for those facing financial hardship. They can be used to help with:
- accommodation and travel
- childcare costs (you must be aged 20 or over to qualify)
- course materials and equipment.
Check with your college to see whether this option is available to you. For more information visit gov.uk/learner-support