Financial help with childcare and costs

Government help with childcare costs

You might be able to get some help from the government towards childcare costs. 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.


Benefits are payments from the government to people who need financial help. Some types of benefits can help with childcare costs. If you are on a low income or out of work, you may be able to claim Universal Credit. Whether or not you can claim Universal Credit depends on where you live and your circumstances.

Universal Credit is a benefit that is being introduced in stages across the UK. It is replacing a number of existing benefits, including Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. If you currently get either of these tax credits, you cannot claim Universal Credit at the same time. This means if you make a claim for Universal Credit, any existing tax credits you get will end and be replaced by Universal Credit. Before applying, you can get advice from our welfare rights advisers by calling 0808 808 00 00.

The amount of Universal Credit you get depends on your income and situation. Universal Credit gives a standard allowance, and then extra payments for people in certain situations. Some extra payments depend on how many children you have, and any financial help you might need with childcare.

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 England, Scotland and Wales, school meals are free for all children whose parents or carers get certain benefits. These include:

Contact your local council to find out whether your child qualifies and how to apply:

School clothing

Many local councils give grants for school clothing, including PE kit, to families on a low income.

In Northern Ireland, pupils are entitled to a school uniform grant if their parents or carers get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, the guarantee element of Pension Credit, Child Tax Credit (in certain cases) or Universal Credit (in certain cases).

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.

In Northern Ireland, contact the Education Authority.

Back to Childcare

Help getting childcare

You may find it hard to care for your children as you would like to. Try not to feel guilty about asking for help.