MARTIN Lewis' MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) has issued an urgent warning to parents who could claim thousands back in childcare.
In the latest MSE newsletter, families were encouraged to see if they could get back up to £1,630 a month of summer childcare costs.
Parents on Universal Credit can claim back 85% of their childcare costs.
MSE said: "If you're in work, paying for childcare (including nursery, preschool, after-school clubs, breakfast clubs, childminders, nannies, and school holiday clubs) and claiming UC, you can claim back some of your childcare costs via your online Universal Credit account."
In order to get the money back, you must have had your childcare through an approved, registered provider.
If you live with your partner, they'll also have to be in work or classed as having a "limited capability for work" by the Department for Work & Pensions.
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You can claim back up to £951 a month if you have one children, or up to £1,630 a month for two or more kids.
You'll have to provide evidence of your costs, like a letter from your child's care provider and a bank statement providing you've paid them (or a cash receipt).
Parents can claim up to three months in advance, but in some cases, you may only get the cashback after the childcare has been provided.
That means you might have to pay yourself first.
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The amount parents could claim back recently rose from £646 for one child and £1,108 for two.
This was a huge win for The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign, the government is finally changing how families receive help.
If you're on less than £40,000 a year and not claiming Universal Credit then you should check to see if you qualify.
You can use a benefits calculator from MoneySavingExpert.com to see if you're eligible.
You might then be able to claim for any childcare costs – though bear in mind the money takes five weeks to come through so you'll have to wait a little longer.
What other childcare help is available?
There are a range of tax breaks and grants to help make childcare more affordable.
You can usually use them for care like registered childminders, nannies, playschemes, nurseries, and holiday clubs.
It’s always worth checking the government’s handy childcare costs calculator to find out which scheme will save you the most money, as not all of them can be used at the same time.
Free childcare for two-year-olds
Parents living in England and claiming any of the following benefits can access some free childcare for their two-year-olds:
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
- Income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
- Universal Credit (where household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments)
- Tax credits (where household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax)
- Pension Credit (guaranteed element)
2-year-olds can also get free childcare if they:
- Are looked after by a local authority
- Have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
- Get disability living allowance
- Have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order
You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.
Contact your childcare provider or local council to find out more.
15 or 30 hours of free childcare
All three to four-year-old children in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare – amounting to 570 hours per year – from the term after their third birthday.
The free allowance is usually taken as 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year, but it is possible to take it at a time that suits you.
The free early education and childcare must be with an approved childcare provider and stops when your child starts school.
Working parents may be eligible to get up to 30 hours of free childcare if they are working at least 16 hours a week on average and earning the National Minimum Wage or more.
Check out what you could get and apply online at Gov.UK.
If you don't qualify for Universal Credit you may qualify for tax-free childcare.
You can get up to £500 every three months – up to a maximum of £2,000 a year – for each of your children to help with the costs of childcare.
If your child is disabled, it's even more – £1,000 every three months, up to £4,000 per year.
To receive the tax-free benefit you need to create an online childcare account.
For every £8 you pay into this account, the government will add £2 which you can use to pay your approved provider.
You can get child benefit if you're responsible for a child aged under 16, or if they are under 20 and in approved education or training.
Child benefit is currently worth £24 a week for the eldest child or only child, adding up to £1,248 a year.
For each subsequent child, parents get £15.90 a week – or £826.80 a year.
The free money is paid every four weeks, and there's no limit to how many children you can apply for – though only one person can claim for each child.
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But do note that those who earn more than £50,000 a year may need to pay back some of their child benefit in tax.
While this help isn't directly for childcare, the money can help to cut costs.
Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected].
You can also join our new Sun Money Facebook group to share stories and tips and engage with the consumer team and other group members.
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