The Universal Credit childcare policy aligns with the wider government childcare offer, which includes free childcare hours and tax free childcare. Claimants can utilise both the free childcare entitlement and Universal Credit childcare costs in conjunction with each other. This offer means that reasonable childcare costs should not form a barrier to work. The Government is committed to supporting parents with moving into work and, as part of this, Universal Credit pays up to 85% of childcare costs, compared to 70% in legacy benefits.
The Flexible Support Fund (FSF) can pay up to 100% of the upfront childcare costs (subject to payment limits) that the claimant incurs before starting work and receiving their first wage. Through FSF, work coaches can support claimants with barriers that may prevent them from moving into employment, such as childcare or travel costs. Each case is considered carefully on its own merits with financial help available in advance to eligible claimants.
Universal Credit claimants are able to upload digital copies of their childcare cost receipts or invoices through their online Universal Credit account. In October 2019, the Department introduced changes to give parents longer to report their childcare costs. Childcare costs can be claimed in the same assessment period they were paid, or by the end of the following assessment period.