Childcare Choices is a government scheme that provides working or self-employed parents with up to £2,000 per year to help with the rising cost of childcare. Here we will take a look at eligibility, how Childcare Choices works and how to apply.
As the average cost of childcare continues to rise in the UK, Childcare Choices is one of the ways in which working families are given support in paying for the cost of childcare. Free childcare is provided for all 3 and 4 year-olds but for younger children and for after school care, parents are expected to pay. Different systems exist for each of the countries in the UK, but free childcare is provided in all countries. Eligible parents, who can be either employed or self-employed, are free to use a variety of approved childcare providers and the government contributes £8 for every £2 that the parents contribute up to a maximum of £2000 per child per year. Parents of disabled children may be provided with additional payments. If you’re wondering about the best age to start your child in child care, you can look at my article here. Let’s take a look at some of the finer details of the Childcare Choices program.
What is the average childcare cost in the UK?
Childcare is a significant cost for most families, with costs continuing to rise. In fact, some working parents have found it necessary to work fewer hours than they want because they can’t afford the childcare fees. The cost will vary depending on the type of childcare, as well as the region. To see a detailed list of childcare costs, read Childcare costs: How much do you pay in the UK? Childcare is usually more expensive in London.
The average cost for 25 hours, which is regarded as part-time, is £138 a week whereas full-time childcare, at 50 hours, is about £263. For children who only require childcare after school, after school clubs will usually charge an average of £62 per week.
Does the UK offer free childcare?
England provides free childcare to all 3 and 4-year-olds, and parents are able to get 570 free hours of childcare per year with an approved childcare provider. You can find which childcare providers are approved at Gov.uk which provides information for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
In general, this free childcare is taken as 15 hours per week for 38 weeks in each year. However, there is some flexibility in this system and parents may be able to stretch it out over a longer period of time by taking fewer hours per week. They may also be able to get more hours of childcare over a shorter period of time. This free childcare stops when the child starts school.
Free childcare is also available for 2-year-olds in England if their parents or carers are receiving certain government benefits. To find out who is eligible go to Gov.uk – Free education and childcare for 2-year-olds. This website also provides links to the childcare schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These countries do not have the same childcare systems as those in England.
Although free childcare is only provided to working UK citizens, some non-citizens are also eligible for free childcare. Non-citizens who receive support under the Immigration and Asylum Act may be able to receive free childcare.
What is Childcare Choices?
Childcare Choices is a tax-free childcare scheme that supports working parents with childcare costs. Parents who are eligible can set up an online childcare account that allows them to pay their childcare provider directly. Eligible parents whose children are less than 12 years old can receive up to £2000 per year per child. For parents with children who are disabled the amount increases to a maximum of £4000 each year. To find out if you are eligible go to ChildcareChoices.gov.uk.
There are a number of different types of providers that can be paid for through Childcare Choices. The providers must be registered. To read more about Childcare Choices and to find out which providers can be used, go to Childcare Choices.
How does Childcare Choices help UK families with childcare costs?
Childcare Choices is not the only system by which parents can get support for their childcare costs. Some working families may use either the Universal Credit social security payment or Tax-free vouchers. Generally, parents should compare each of these systems to decide which one is the most cost-effective. If parents receive Tax Credits, Universal Credit, or childcare vouchers, they will not be eligible for Childcare Choices.
Once a parent has decided that Childcare Choices is the best system for them, they should apply and set up an online account for paying their childcare provider. When parents make a payment of £2 into that online account, the government will pay an extra £8, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child each year.
Is there an income threshold for the free childcare hours?
Parents who are employed may be able to receive up to 30 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year. This also includes parents who are self-employed. To calculate eligibility, self-employed people can look at an average of how much they expect to earn in the current tax year. The earnings limit will not be counted if the business started less than a year ago. In order to be eligible, parents must be earning less than £100,000 per year and more than £152 a week.
How do I apply for support through Childcare Choices?
If you think that you are eligible for support, then your first step is to check your eligibility at Apply for 30 hours free childcare. You will need your details and your National Insurance number as well as your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). The application will take about 20 minutes. Some people find out that they are eligible immediately, but others have to wait for up to 7 days.
While free childcare is available for all 3 and 4-year-olds in the UK, Childcare Choices provides extra support for working families for children between the ages of 2 and 12. For every £2 that parents add to their online account for paying childcare providers, the government will contribute a further £8 up to a maximum of £2,000 with additional payments for the parents of disabled children. Within the UK, the scheme differs in each of the countries. Parents who use Universal Credit or Tax-Free vouchers are not eligible for Childcare Choices and it is important for parents to select the option that is most beneficial for their circumstances.
Many families have tried Working from home with Kids and it can present some unique challenges, but if you need to send your kids to Childcare, Childcare Choices have provided UK families support to be able to do that by providing free childcare for eligible families.
If you’re looking for further support and resources for families, you can read my articles on: