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Advise me about...... Childcare

When considering part time learning you may need advice on arranging suitable childcare. The good news is there is lots of help to pay for childcare and plenty of advice about where to start looking for a nursery or childminder. However, what financial help you are entitled to depends on the age of your children, your own age, your financial circumstances and the type of course you are hoping to take. So it may take a little digging to make sure you have all the facts to hand.

Free care for all pre-school children

You may not be aware but in England all children aged 3 to 4 can get 570 hours of free childcare a year (this works out around 15 hours per week during school term times). This is regardless of your circumstances (and whether you are studying or not). Some children aged 2 can also get free childcare but you need to be on certain benefits or meet other criteria (for example if your child has special needs or a certain level of disability). Arrangements in other parts of the UK differ. Arrangements in other parts of the UK differ, see the links below

Tax credits & childcare vouchers

If you are working then you need to check whether you are entitled to Tax Credits, which may provide additional money to cover childcare costs and if your child(ren) are disabled there is a range of support on offer. You will also want to check whether your employer runs a childcare voucher scheme, these save you money as your employer arranges payment for your childcare (directly from your salary) which reduces the overall amount of NI and tax you pay.

If you are not employed but your husband or partner is their employer may have a childcare voucher scheme that they can use to make savings on your behalf. These schemes can make a huge difference to childcare costs but can have an impact on any Tax Credits you receive. If you are employed speak to your employer (or your partner’s employer) about any childcare voucher schemes they run. This will usually be Human Resources or similar department.

Discretionary learner support for adult and further education learners

If you are thinking about taking a further education course at a college or adult education centre and you are struggling financially then check if you are eligible fora ‘Discretionary Learner Support’ award. This is open to students 20 and over. If you are under 20 and have children to care for then you may be entitled to Care to Learn instead. Talk to your college(or the one you are interested in attending) and ask to speak to someone who can advise on financial support (they will usually have a student support team that does this). They can assess your eligibility for financial support.

Grants for higher education students

If you are thinking about taking a higher education course (for example a degree or a HND) then you will need to find out about all the different student finance available. The information about HE funding on this site refers specifically to funding for courses in England, but useful links for those studying outside of England are provided below. Full time HE students can apply for a Parents Learning Allowance and a Childcare Grant, neither of which you have to pay back. If you are thinking about a part time HE course these are currently not open to you, therefore it may be worth thinking about whether a full time route could work for you. Some HE institutions do offer additional support to learners on low income or who are struggling financially so talking directly to the college or universities may be worthwhile.

College or university nurseries

Some education providers (for example colleges and universities) have their own childcare facilities on site, however waiting lists are usually long and you would still need to pay for it’s use. It is worth finding out if there is a nursery on campus when you are weighing up where to study.

Learning from home

One of the advantages of distance learning is that you can try and organise your study time around your other responsibilities, that means you can study from home when the children are asleep or when there is someone else around to look after them. You can find out more about this kind of learning and whether it is right for you by using our 'Advise Me' tool.

Useful links

For information about childcare voucher schemes across the UK.
Voucher Schemes

For detailed information about choosing and paying for childcare:
Childcare on website

For information about financial support for parents taking a higher education course:
Student Finance on website

For information about discretionary learner support funds available in further and adult education:
Discretionary Learner Support on

Links to sites providing information about student funding across the UK.
Student Funding