Ways to cut the cost of childcare from discounts to community nurseries

PARENTS now pay over £6,600 a year on average just for a part-time nursery place, according to the Government's Money Advice Service.

If your kid has a full time place then that cost rises to a whopping £12,584 – and in London it can be even more.

Even after school clubs add up, costing £3,068 a year if you use one five days a week in term and over the holidays.

But there are ways to try and cut costs, so make sure you're getting all the help you're entitled to and brush up on your working rights.

Here's what you need to know.

1. Request flexible working to save on childcare costs

All employees in England, Scotland and Wales have a legal right to request flexible working – whether they're a parent or not.

This could include job sharing, working from home, going part-time, working flexitime, compressing your hours into fewer days and more.

You just need to have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible.

If your employer doesn't deal with your request in a reasonable manner – and they have three months to make a decision – you can take them to an employment tribunal.

But be aware that they can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.

The rules are different in Northern Ireland.

2. Claim tax-free childcare worth up to £2,000 a year

Under the tax-free childcare scheme, for every £8 you pay the Government will add an extra £2.

This means you can get up to £500 every three months – or £2,000 a year – for each of your children to help with the cost of childcare.

The scheme is available to working parents each earning at least the national minimum wage or living wage for 16 hours a week and less than £100,000 each.

To claim, kids need to be 11 or under or 16 and under if they're disabled.

Cash is added by the Government upfront directly into parents' childcare accounts – although they will need to spend this on a registered childcare provider.

The scheme replaced childcare vouchers which were axed for new users in October 2018.

But almost 1.4million families are missing out – make sure you're not one of them.

You can use tax-free childcare at the same as 15 to 30 hours free childcare but not at the same time as childcare vouchers, tax credits or Universal Credit.

Apply online by setting up a childcare account on Gov.uk.

3. Get 15 to 30 hours a week free childcare for two- to four-year-olds

In England, you might qualify for 15 hours free childcare for two-year-olds if you're on benefits such as income support or Universal Credit and you and your partner have a combined income of £15,400 a year – or less – after tax.

Kids have to go to an Ofsted registered childcare provider to be eligible – contact your childcare provider or local council to find out more.

Meanwhile, all three to four-year-olds in England can get 15 hours free childcare a week for 38 weeks of the year.

Low income parents may also qualify for an additional 15 hours a week, taking it to 30 hours a week in total, for three- and four-year-olds.

Apply on Gov.uk.

There are different schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

4. Claim back 85 per cent of childcare costs under Universal Credit

Working families who are eligible for Universal Credit can usually claim back 85 per cent of childcare costs.

The most you can get back is £646 a month for one child, and £1,108 a month for two or more children.

You can only claim if your childcare is provided by a Government registered or approved childcare provider.

Universal Credit replaces working tax credit and other benefits. You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income or out of work.

Here's how to claim.

But be aware that nursery costs will have to be paid for upfront, something The Sun is calling on the Government to change under our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.

6. Check for workplace nurseries to save cash

Your employer may run a subsidised nursery that looks after tots while you're in the office, so it's worth checking.

7. Get help from family members – and they can earn national insurance contributions

Find out if grandparents or other family members will help with childcare costs.

Be aware that grandparents and other family members under state pension age who look after children under 12 while their parents are at work can claim valuable tax credits.

These are important because you need at least 10 years' worth of credits to qualify for the state pension, and at least 35 years' to get the full £8,767.20 a year.

But millions of grandparents are thought to be missing out – here's what you need to know.

8. Save thousands using an au pair or childminder instead of a nursery

Day nurseries cost around £6,604 based on a child under two attending for 25 hours a week, according to the Money Advice Service.

But the Government help site reckons registered childminders cost less at £5,876 for the same work while an au pair is cheaper again at about £3,640 to £4,420.

Of course, if you opt for an au pair then you will need to be in mind that they will need to live with you which could push up your living costs.

9. Check for a Sure Start Children's Centre for free childcare

Check if there are any community nurseries in your nearby area as they can work out cheaper.

Sure Start Children's Centres, for example are run by local authorities in England provide advice and support for parents and some also offer low cost or free childcare for two- to four-year-olds.

Visit Gov.uk to find your nearest.

Sainsbury's has also launched summer holiday childcare for just £7.50 a day and it includes lunch.

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