The Equality Act applies to childcare providers. They are not allowed to discriminate against disabled children and must make ‘reasonable adjustments’. They are allowed to charge extra if they need to employ extra staff or limit their provision to fewer children, but they are only allowed to charge for the extra costs incurred.
This article outlines support that may be available for childcare costs for disabled children.
Tax Credits are usually only available if you are already claiming (Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit or both). Unfortunately, you cannot make a new application for Tax Credits.
Tax Credits can cover 70% of your childcare costs up to £175 a week for one child or £300 a week for more than one child. These costs can be included in your claim for Working Tax Credit.
If it is a one-parent household the parent must work 16 hours or more. If there are two adults both must work 16 hours or more, unless one partner is on certain benefits or national insurance credits for sickness or disability (for example, getting Employment and Support Allowance), in hospital, in prison, or a carer entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
For more information, see our article on Childcare costs and Working Tax Credit.
If you are claiming Universal Credit you may be able to claim up to 85% of what you pay or 85% of the maximum childcare costs. However, you may get less than this because UC is reduced by your income. The maximum childcare costs taken into account (for 2021/2022) are £646.35 a month for one child or £1,108.04 a month for more than one child.
You can claim childcare costs for disabled children up to the end of the week including 1st September following their 16th birthday. The childcare must be registered or approved. Care by a relative of the child does not qualify unless it is provided away from your home and the relative is registered or approved.
You must be in paid work to get help with childcare costs. There is no minimum number of hours you need to work to get help with childcare costs. However, the childcare must be provided in order to enable you to work.
If you are claiming with a partner both of you normally need to be in paid work, unless one partner is on certain benefits or national insurance credits for sickness or disability (for example, Employment and Support Allowance), in hospital, in prison, or a carer entitled to Carer’s Allowance
For more information, see our article on Childcare Costs and Universal Credit.
Important: You should get advice before switching to UC if you are currently getting Tax Credits, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Housing Benefit. You could end up worse off and you will not be able to return to your old benefits.
In England, there are three government-funded early education schemes that offer free childcare for children aged two, three and four:
- 15 hours free childcare for eligible 2-year-olds
- 15 hours free childcare for all 3 and 4-year-olds
- 30 hours free childcare for eligible 3 and 4 year-olds
In England, 2-year-olds on Disability Living Allowance, who have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education for 38 weeks of the year. For 3 and 4-year-olds, this entitlement is universal so all children can benefit.
For more information, see our article on free childcare for children aged two, three and four.
Tax-Free Childcare is a government scheme that pays 20% of childcare costs. To apply, you must set up an online account and contribute, and the government tops up funds by 20%.
The government tops it up to a maximum of £4,000 a year for qualifying disabled children.
For the purposes of Tax-Free Childcare, a disabled child means a child who is receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Child Disability Payment, an armed forces independence payment, or a payment from elsewhere in the European Economic Area which has a similar character to those benefits.
Children who are certified as severely sight impaired or blind are also disabled for the purposes of Tax-Free Childcare.
You won’t be able to use Tax-Free Childcare if you get any Tax Credits or Universal Credit, and applying for Tax-Free Childcare will mean that your Tax Credits or UC will be stopped. If you are in a childcare voucher scheme, applying for Tax-Free Childcare will also stop your vouchers.
Some employers provide childcare vouchers as a benefit or through a salary sacrifice scheme. You can only get these if you are already in the scheme and you are still with the same employer, as it was closed to new entrants in 2018.
You do not pay National Insurance or tax on vouchers up to £55 a week. Vouchers can be used for registered or approved childcare.
You cannot include the cost of childcare which is paid for by vouchers in your claim for Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit. Sacrificing some of your salary may have a knock-on effect on pay rises and pension contributions. It is important to calculate whether you are better off claiming vouchers.
Comparing different types of help with childcare costs
There is a government calculator which compares different types of childcare support, but it does not provide details of Universal Credit entitlement and only calculates tax credits if you are eligible for the childcare element of Working Tax Credit.
You can check how much you should be getting in Tax Credits or could get in Universal Credit using a benefits calculator.
If your local authority assesses your disabled child as in need of services, such as a nursery place or short breaks (respite care), you can ask for direct payments from your local council and arrange services yourself. Direct Payments mean that you have much more flexibility.
For Family Information Services – see your local authority’s website or visit the Family and Childcare Trust.
This advice applies in England, Wales and Scotland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details. If you are in Northern Ireland you can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.
If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.