Finding childcare if you don’t have a job

What childcare options are available if I'm not working?

If you’re not currently in a job, the childcare options available to you are dependent on the age of your child and whether you’re claiming specific benefits.

My child is under two years old

At the moment, you’re not entitled to any free childcare or help towards childcare fees until your child is two years old.

Your local children’s centre may provide some childcare such as a crèche – you can find out where your nearest children’s centre is by visiting the childcare finder for your local area.

My child is two years old and I receive universal credit/income support/ESA

Note: This information is relevant only to England. A different scheme is available in Wales – check out what’s available in your area.

Some two-year-old children are entitled to 15 hours a week of free childcare. Not all two-year-olds will qualify; it depends whether you claim certain benefits.

If you qualify, you can get up to 15 hours a week of childcare for free. This can be taken over two or three days a week. It’s available for 38 weeks of the year.

How can I qualify for free childcare?

To qualify for the free childcare, you need to be claiming one of the following:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Universal credit – check your entitlement here
  • Child tax credit (and your income is not more than £16,190 a year)
  • Working tax credit (and your income is not more than £16,190 a year)
  • The working tax credit four week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for working tax credit)
  • The guaranteed element of state pension credit
  • Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act.

Children also qualify if:

  • they’re looked after by a local council
  • they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education health and care plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order, or adoption order.

My child is three or four years old

Once your child is three years old, you’ll be entitled to free childcare with a registered childminder or nursery.

The free childcare is for 15 hours a week during term-time.

Remember that the free childcare will actually start in the first week of term after your child’s third birthday – this could end up being a few weeks or months after they actually turn three, depending on their date of birth.

If you start a paid job, you’ll be able to claim other types of childcare support as well as the 15 hours scheme above – find out more about childcare when you have a job.

Childcare Choices

Childcare Choices is the government's guide to childcare options and support. Check your eligibility and calculate estimates for how much you may be entitled to.

Visit their website

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