Childcare Choices: The Ins & Outs!

Are you considering putting your child into a childcare setting, but unsure what help you may be able to get, or even where to start…? We’ve got you covered.

This time last year, I was in a quandary. I needed to put my son into nursery or with a childminder, but I didn’t know where to start looking or what help I could get, if any. Lots of parents in our online community ask the question ‘where do I even start’… We hope this comprehensive guide on childcare will help answer any questions you may have.

My blog on putting my son into nursery might be a good read for any parents who feel apprehensive about making the leap.

Max on his first day of Nursery about one year ago… he’s grown so much since, in every possible way!

Do I qualify for help?

It’s not a given that you’ll qualify for funding at this point, or for help with paying via tax credits or universal credit (depending if your area has changed over yet). It’s means tested, so it’s worth doing this calculator to get an idea of what you’ll be entitled to. I’ll also mention that any figure you’re given isn’t set in stone, and you won’t know the exact amount until you’ve actually applied for help!

If you or your partner earn over £100,000 individually, you should note that you won’t be entitled to any help towards childcare on

Where can I find a suitable setting?

It’s pretty simple; the UK Government has set up this site to help you find settings in your locality. Settings generally will offer a look-around session, and a free settling in session to see if your little one is happy at the setting.

Read our guide on important questions to ask any childcare setting here – it’s very useful!

Tax Free Childcare

You may have heard of ‘tax free childcare’, but what exactly is it, and what are the benefits?

If you’re a working mummy or daddy with children under 12 (or under 17 for disabled children), you can open an account to pay for registered childcare online. Any money you pay into the account will be topped up by the government; for every £8 paid in, the government will pay an extra £2, up t0 £2000 every child per year, or up to £4000 if you have a disabled little one.

Who is eligible for tax free childcare?

You, and any partner, should have a predicted wage of least £131 per week (this is equivalent to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage).  If you or your partner are on maternity/paternity or adoption leave, or you’re disabled/have caring duties putting you out of work, you could still be eligible.  It is important to note that you cannot get Tax-Free Childcare if either you or your partner, each expect to earn £100,000 or more alone.

What are the benefits of opting for tax-free childcare?

You can use Tax-Free Childcare all year round to help pay for registered childcare, afterschool clubs, playschemes and home careworkers! It can be used at the same time as the 15 and 30 hours free childcare (we’ll discuss below), but it can’t be used with universal credit or tax credits. Childcare vouchers are also not included but this scheme was recently scrapped.

You can apply here.

15 Hours Free Funding

If your child is 2, you may be entitled to 15 hours free childcare funding for 38 weeks of the year (term time), or stretched over 52 weeks using less hours each week. In total, you’ll get 570 free hours to use across more than one setting! If you’re not eligible when your child is 2 due to the income requirements, you will be entitled when your child is 3 as the 15 hours funding becomes available to all families in England once your child turns 3 from 1st of January, 1st of April and 1st of September depending when their birthday falls.

Who is eligible?

Find the criteria on the Gov.uk site here!

It’s worth noting the funding isn’t intended to cover extras like food, trips etc.

30 Hours Free Funding

The 30 hours free funding is intended for working families. I cannot wait until September as my Max will get his! This funding is for 3 and 4 year olds over 38 weeks, or 52 if your setting allows it. It can be used across more than one setting. This gives you a total of 1140 free hours a year if you qualify!

Apply here if your little one is eligible to get 30 hours free funding in September like mine!

Who is eligible?

Like with the 15 hours free funding, you and your partner must be expected to earn at least £131 a week, with potential eligibility if you’re on maternity leave, disabled or a carer. If either one of you expects to earn over £100,000 individually, you’re not eligible.

Your little one can start their 30 hours free childcare the term after they turn 3  and have received a 30 hours funding code, (whichever is later). Like with 15 hours funding, term start dates are 1st September, 1stJanuary and 1st April, depending on when their birthday falls.

Your details and code will need updating every three months, and this funding is not intended to cover extras such as food and trips.

All About Tax Credits Towards Childcare

If you’re not entitled to any tax credits based on income, this may change once you put your little one into childcare. Tax credits towards childcare can cover up to 70% of your fees dependant on household income, up to the age of 16 (17 if your child is disabled). If your area has stopped new claims, you can apply for Universal Credit, which we’ll discuss below. If you’re currently a tax credit claimant, you needn’t do anything. This calculator should give you an idea of how much you could get, if you have an idea of how many hours and cost of potential childcare.

Universal Credit Towards Childcare

New claims for tax credits are now closed for most of us, as the Government are moving all benefits over to the universal credit system.

If eligible, you can get up to 85% of childcare costs covered. You need to be working and could get up to £646 per month for one child, or £1,108 for two or more. It cannot be claimed alongside tax credits or tax free childcare.

This Gov.uk calculator will give you a better idea of eligibility.

Support for Student Parents

If you’re in sixth form or college, you could get some help towards childcare! If you’re in higher education, such as University Degree, Student Finance England may offer you help towards childcare fees, so call them when applying for funding. I have friends who were given help from SFE England to help cover childcare and they couldn’t praise it enough, it helped them immeasurably.

These sources of support may also be something you’re interested in looking into;

How did you find the application process? Any tips or snippets of advice for our parents? Tell us in the comments!

Checkout the Childcare Choices site by HM Government here.

Love from Katie! Xx