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Help with the costs of childcare

Families can access help with the costs of childcare in a variety of ways, through the tax credits system, vouchers provided by employers and the recently introduced tax free childcare accounts.

Families cannot receive Tax Free Childcare at the same time as Childcare Vouchers, Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit. You can use the government's Childcare Calculator to find out which option would be better for you, this will depend on your family circumstances.

All of the support is restricted to paying for childcare services that are registered.  In Scotland, registered childcare means:

  • a childcare provider registered by the Care Inspectorate.
  • childcare provided in the child's home by, or introduced through, a childcare agency, sitter service or nanny agency which is registered by the Care Inspectorate.

Details of registered childcare services are available on ourFind my nearest childcare providers page.

Tax free childcare accounts

The government introduced tax free childcare accounts to allow more families to access support with childcare costs.  The accounts are for working families, including the self-employed, who have children under 12 (or under 17 if disabled). 

For every £8 the family pays in to the child's account, the government will add an extra £2, up to £2,000 per child per year or £4,000 for a disabled child. The scheme was phased in from April 2017 starting with younger children and is now available to families who have children under the age of 12. More information is available from the UK Government website.

Tax Credits for childcare

If you are entitled to Working Tax Credit, and you and any partner are working at least 16 hours a week each, you can claim back up to 70% of your eligible childcare costs for children under 16 (or under 17 for disabled children). Depending on your income, you could get up to £122.50 a week for one child or £210 for two or more children. More information on Child Tax Credit is available on the UK Government website.

Universal Credit for childcare

If you, and any partner, are working, or you're due to start work, and you're claiming Universal Credit, you can claim back up to 85% of your eligible childcare costs for children under 16. You could get up to £646 a month for one child, or £1,108 for two or more children.

Universal Credit is being phased in over the next few years. It will replace a number of existing benefits, including tax credits. Whether you can claim will depend on where you live and your personal circumstances.

Childcare vouchers

If your employer offers childcare vouchers or arranges your childcare, you can get up to £933 a year in tax and National Insurance savings.

The amount you can get in childcare vouchers depends on how much you earn and when you joined the scheme. You pay for your childcare before tax and National Insurance deductions are made.

If you are eligible for tax credits, taking childcare vouchers from your employer may affect the amount of tax credits you get. This calculator can help you decide whether you would be better off taking childcare vouchers.

Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment

The Scottish Government has launched its new Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment. This is £606 for your first child and £303 for any little brothers and sisters, if you meet the eligibility criteria. And, if you are having a multiple birth, you will get an additional £303 on top of the money you get for each baby for the additional expense that comes with twins, triplets or quadruplets. Make sure you are eligible and know what to expect when you apply.

Best Start Foods

A new payment card is being introduced by the Scottish Government to help low-income families access healthy food.  You can apply for Best Start Foods when you're pregnant, or any time up to your child turning 3 years old. This goes up to 4 years old for a child:

  • who's over 2 years old when you apply
  • that you also get Healthy Start Vouchers for

The payments of Best Start Foods are:

  •  £17 every 4 weeks during pregnancy
  •  £34 every 4 weeks from your child being born up until they're a 1 year old
  •  £17 every 4 weeks between the ages of 1 and 3

Early Learning Payment

The Early Learning Payment is part of Best Start Grant, a package of three payments that will give extra money to low income families during the early years of a child's life. It is a £252.50 payment made between the ages of two and three and a half years old. This is to help with the costs of early learning for eligible families who have a child.

School Age Payment

You can apply for the School Age Payment in the year your child should be starting school.

Your child's date of birthWhen you can apply
Between 1 March 2014 and 28 February 2015Last date for applications was 29 February 2020
Between 1 March 2015 and 29 February 2016Between 1 June 2020 and 28 February 2021
Between 1 March 2016 and 28 February 2017Between 1 June 2021 and 28 February 2022

You cannot apply for the School Age Payment for a child born before 1 March 2014.You cannot apply outwith these dates.

If you receive the School Age Payment, you'll get £252.50 for each child you can receive the payment for.

Scottish Child Payment

The new benefit will give qualifying parents and carers £40 every four weeks for each child under six.  Parents and carers who have not yet applied and have a child under six are encouraged to apply today to get the maximum amount of money they are entitled to.

Scottish Child Payment is a new benefit and it is in addition to the UK wide Child Benefit.

People can apply for Best Start Grant and Scottish Child Payment online at the Best Start Grant website or through the Freephone helpline - 0800 182 2222. The helpline is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm.

Further support and information can be found by contacting the Welfare Rights Team

Contact details

Childcare Strategy Team

Perth Grammar School Community Wing, Perth, PH1 5AZ
Tel 01738 472350