If you’ve got a child (or two) under school age, the chances are you’re all too aware of the steep cost of childcare. Whatever option you choose, it’s likely to make a significant dent in your bank balance (unless you’ve got family on hand to look after the little ones for free, in which case we’re very envious).
Recently we met up with City of York Council’s Family Information Service (YorkFIS) to chat about the fantastic free services they offer to York families, one of which is to try to help families reduce their childcare bills. We were more than happy to spread the word about the options worth exploring if you use childcare and would like to save some money. Here are a few things worth knowing about:
Free childcare for two year olds
Some families are eligible for free childcare for their two year olds. If you are on certain benefits, your child has a disability or additional need or your little one is in care or has left care, you may be able to get fifteen hours of term time childcare. You can pick up an application in your local children’s centre, call YorkFIS (01904 554444) to apply over the phone or apply online at www.yor-ok.org.uk/childcare.
Free childcare for three and four year olds
All families are entitled to up to 15 hours free childcare during term time from the term after their child turns three. It’s simple to take up and makes a massive difference to your bill. Just talk to your childcare provider about claiming this.
Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit provides a top up to wages for those on low incomes. Extra help is available for working parents through a childcare element, which can help with the cost of registered or approved childcare. It can offer up to 70 per cent towards the costs of eligible childcare up to a maximum level of £175 per week for 1 child and £300 per week for 2 or more children. You may be able to claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit:
- If you are lone parent you must work 16 hours or more per week.
- If you are part of a couple, both you and your partner need to be in paid employment of 16 or more hours per week. However, you will also be eligible if 1 of you works 16 or more hours per week and the other does not work, but is an in-patient in hospital, in prison or incapacitated for childcare purposes
To find out more or to make a claim, contact the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900.
Childcare vouchers through your employer
Many employers support their staff with their childcare needs, including providing financial assistance. The most common way is where you can buy up to £55 a week of childcare vouchers directly from your pay. The part of your earnings you get in a voucher is free from tax and National Insurance. Please note that childcare vouchers may affect the amount of tax credits you can get. Talk to your manager about what support they offer with childcare costs. If your manager does not know about childcare vouchers then you can give them the number of YorkFIS (01904 554444) who will give them information about setting up a voucher scheme.
If you’d like to talk through your circumstances and find out what options you have, YorkFIS are happy to help! We can testify to the fact that they are incredibly friendly and know a lot about all things family-related in York. Call or email them and they can let you know what support might be available to you. And it’s all for free! If you’re trying to choose childcare for your child and don’t know where to start in terms of nurseries, childminders and so on, YorkFIS can even send you a personalised list of options in your area. How good is that?! Just get in touch with them to kick things off.