PARENTS are being urged to claim a £500 tax-free boost to help cover childcare costs over the summer holidays.
Around 1.3 million families could be eligible for support – but many don't know they can get it.
With the school term coming to an end and the cost of living on the constant rise, families will be needing a helping hand more than ever.
Tax-free childcare gives families up to £500 per child every three months and can be used for holiday clubs, before and after school clubs, childminders and nurseries.
And over a year the cash adds up to £2,000 for each child.
You could get up to £1,000 if your child is disabled over the school break, or £4,000 a year in total.
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You can get the cash through a scheme known as tax-free childcare.
For every £8 you put into a tax-free childcare online account, you will get an extra £2 topped up by the government.
It's available for kids up to the age of 11, or 17 for disabled children.
You can use it during the summer holidays to help with meals, clothing or anything else you're struggling to afford for your child.
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Am I eligible for tax-free childcare?
You'll have to check carefully – there are a lot of rules which decide whether you get tax-free child support.
It depends on if you're working, how much you earn, your child's age and your immigration status.
You can usually get tax-free childcare if you or your partner are:
- in work
- on sick leave or annual leave
- on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave
But you might still be eligible even if you're not working, as long as your partner is.
If you're not working you may still be able to get tax-free childcare. You will need to also be claiming one of the following benefits:
- Incapacity Benefit
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
You can check your eligibility and register for support now using the government website.
You'll need to prove you're earning a low enough income. That at least will include earning the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average.
If you’re self-employed and do not expect to make enough profit in the next three months, you can use an average of how much you expect to make over the current tax year.
This earnings limit does not apply if you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago.
If you or your partner have an expected total income over £100,000 in the current tax year you will not be eligible, including any bonuses you expect to get.
Applying for tax-free childcare
You can apply for tax-free childcare on the government's website.
Before you apply, you should bear in mind that you can't get tax-free childcare at the same time as claiming working tax credit, child tax credit, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers.
If you already claim one of these benefits you should work out which scheme is best for you.
What other help can I get with childcare?
If you're not eligible for tax-free childcare, it's not the end of the world.
There are plenty of other types of support you could be eligible for.
And with the average nursery place now costing an eye-watering £7,000 a year, you might need all the help you can get.
The government has a scheme for parents to access childcare if their children are two years old or younger.
You won't get cover for meals, nappies and other costs, but the care is free.
Before you apply, check the full list of criteria on the government's website.
If your child is three or four years old, you could still be eligible for 30 hours' free help from an approved provider every term time week funded by the government.
This is for 38 weeks a year, but parents can choose to take fewer hours to spread the support over more weeks. To apply, click here.
You could also claim Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit to provide extra support for your family.
This earns you extra money from the government to pay for childcare.
To qualify for Working Tax Credit, you and your partner will have to work at least 16 hours a week.
Those entitled to carer’s allowance, in prison, in hospital, or incapacitated may not have to work.
You can save up to 70% a week on childcare which amounts to £175 for one child, or £300 for two or more.
And those on Universal Credit can grab 85% towards their childcare costs, up to £646 a month for one child, or £1,108 for two or more children. You can apply here.
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Struggling families can also apply for free cash to help with bills, supermarket shops and more using the Household Support Fund.
Plus, here are some ways to earn cash if you don't qualify for Universal Credit.
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