Many parents are lucky enough to find suitable childcare as soon as they need it, but it may take several months of searching to find somewhere that accommodates both your own and your child's needs.
Finding good quality childcare can be a difficult task for parents. There are lots of things to look out for and remember to ask when you visit a childcare setting.
For parents with disabled children
If your child is three or four years old, they are entitled to 15 hours of free early education per week. Some two-year-olds are also entitled to free early education.
Childcare options for children aged 0-5
Choosing childcare to suit your family is an important decision, based on what’s available, your working pattern, your child’s needs – and cost. See our information on choosing childcare and visiting providers.
Childcare options for children aged 5-11
Choosing childcare to suit your family is an important decision, based on what’s available, your working pattern, your child’s needs – and cost.
Childcare options for children aged 11 and over
Childcare for parents of school aged children, such as after-school and holiday care, is often crucial to enable you to work, study or train beyond school hours and during holiday times. However, it can be difficult to find an option that works well for older children.
Free early education for two, three and four year olds
As soon as your child is three, she or he will get 15 hours of free childcare, every week, for 38 weeks of the year in England.
Three and four year olds can get 10 hours a week free early education in Wales, and in Scotland, 600 hours of free childcare a year. For further information about free childcare in Wales click here.
For working parents
If you’re working and paying for registered childcare, you may be entitled to some help with your childcare costs.
For student parents
If you’re thinking about starting a course, first check with your training provider to see what childcare provision and financial assistance will be available while you are studying. Financial help for childcare costs while you are studying is generally restricted to childcare that is registered with Ofsted. The type of funding available will depend on what level of qualification you are studying for, for example, further education or higher education.
What funding is available for higher education students?
If you are a full-time, undergraduate or PGCE student, with dependent children aged under 15 (under 17 if your child has), a British or EU citizen – and you pay for registered childcare – you may be eligible for a Childcare Grant.
Although you’d be paid in three instalments through the Student Loans Company, it’s a grant, so you’d have nothing to repay.
What funding is available to students on NHS- funded courses?
If you are a health professional student – and have received an NHS Bursary, you can apply for help with your childcare costs through the NHS Childcare Allowance.
Other sources of funding for student parents
Professional and Career Development Loans
You can apply for this if you’re 18 or over and are on a postgraduate or vocational course (learning skills that are specific to a particular job or career, for example, leisure and tourism, engineering or nursing).
The loan covers two years of study, while you’re in education or job-related training – plus up to one year’s practical ‘on the job’ experience, if this is part of the course.
During maternity leave
You may be entitled to help with your childcare costs during maternity leave. This section outlines the help you can get through childcare vouchers (employer-supported childcare) and the childcare element of Working Tax Credit. The same entitlements to receive childcare vouchers and other non-cash benefits also apply if you’re taking adoption leave.
Childcare vouchers and other employer-supported childcare