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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Childcare benefits and help for parents going back to work

If you're going back to work and you've got children, you can get financial and practical help with childcare. From tax credits to flexible working arrangements, there's lots of support available to make your life easier.

Early years education

All three and four year olds are entitled to twelve-and-a-half hours of free early years education a week, for 38 weeks a year, with a 'registered provider' like a school, nursery or playgroup, regardless of income or circumstances.

Some large employers provide registered early years education at the workplace. You can also use a registered childminder if they're part of an approved childminding network.

Tax Credits

Child Tax Credit

Child Tax Credit is an income-related allowance for parents and carers of children or young people who are still in full-time education. Nine out of ten families with children qualify for Child Tax Credit.

Working Tax Credit

If you're working more than 16 hours a week and you're on a low income, you may be able to get Working Tax Credit too.

The Working Tax Credit includes a specific element to support the cost of registered or approved childcare for working parents. The childcare element can help with up to 80 per cent of your eligible childcare costs.

There are limits on the weekly costs you can claim. If you pay childcare for:

  • one child, the maximum you can claim is £175 a week
  • two or more children, the maximum is £300 a week

To find out if you are eligible for Tax Credits, contact the Tax Credit Helpline on 0845 300 3900 or textphone 0845 300 3909 (open from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm seven days a week except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day).

Time off and flexible working

Time off ('parental leave')

If you're a working parent, you can take up to 13 weeks parental leave for each child until their fifth birthday (you get more than this if you have a disabled child). Your employer doesn't have to pay you when you take this leave, but they might as part of your employment package.

Flexible working

Flexible working lets you ask your employer for a new working pattern to help you care for your child. You have a right to request a flexible working pattern if you've got a child aged under six or a disabled child under 18. Your employer has to consider your request seriously.

To have the right to ask for flexible working, you must:

  • have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks
  • be the child's mother, father, adopter, legal guardian or foster parent - or be the partner of one of these
  • have responsibility for the child's upbringing
  • be making the application so that you'll be able to care for the child

You'll need to fill in an application form when you apply for flexible working. You can only make one application a year.

Job Grant

Job Grant is a tax free lump sum you may get when you start full-time work (at least 16 hours a week). You'll get it if you (and your partner if you have one) are aged 25 or over and you've been getting one or more of these benefits for at least 26 weeks before you started work:

  •  Income Support
  •  Jobseeker's Allowance (both types)
  •  Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance

For lone parents and couples with children the grant is £250. (If you or your partner are under 25 years, different rules may apply.)

How child maintenance affects your benefits

If you (or your current partner who you live with) are claiming Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, the first £20 per week of any maintenance you receive will not affect those benefits. This arrangement has been extended across the Child Support Agency’s old and new schemes, and also applies if you arrange maintenance through a private agreement.

It is your responsibility to tell Jobcentre Plus about any maintenance you receive.

Find out more about maintenance and benefits:

Getting help from your employer

Many employers now offer their employees help to pay for childcare, this can include:

  • paying you cash to pay for childcare
  • paying the childcare fees directly
  • paying the child’s school fees

Should your employer offer any of the above, you will be liable for tax and national insurance contributions on whatever aid is given. There are other types of childcare support your employer could provide however, without you having to pay tax or national insurance contributions. These are:

  • childcare vouchers
  • directly contracted childcare
  • workplace nurseries

For more information on the different types of help you could get from your employer, download the leaflet below.

Additional links

Help with money matters for your child

With a growing family, you could probably do with a little financial help. Follow the links below to find out what you could be entitled to.

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