It’s not cheap bringing up a family, and thousands up and down the UK are struggling with the day-to-day costs. Bringing actual living humans into the world is a scary enough prospect as it is. It’s arguably the most important and difficult thing you’ll ever do in your life. That’s why it’s a wise move to take advantage of the help that’s on offer. Here are a few quick pointers on bringing down the cost of bringing up a family.

What counts as "childcare"?

The term “childcare” is a little broader than it seems. Under the old Child Tax Credits system, you can actually claim right up until the 31st of August after your kid’s 16th birthday. In fact, if they’re going on to certain types of full-time education or training, you can claim as long as they’re under 20. This counts for:

  • A-levels or similar qualifications.
  • Scottish Highers.
  • NVQs and other vocational qualifications up to level 3.
  • home education, if it started before the child turned 16
  • Traineeships in England.

Can I still claim Child Tax Credits?

Child Tax Credits are closed to new applications now, so there’s a new Tax-Free Childcare scheme in its place for people with kids up to 11 years old.

Under Tax-Free Childcare, you can get up to £500 per child every 3 months to help with childcare costs - up to £2,000 a year in total. Basically, the government pays £2 for every £8 you spend on an approved childcare provider. The money goes into an online account that you set up.

Claiming free childcare

On top of that, you can get up to 1,140 hours of free childcare per year if your kid’s 3-4 years old. It’s calculated as 30 hours for 38 weeks, and your eligibility depends on things like whether or not you’re working and how much you’re earning.

Basically, you need to be making at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for an average of 16 hours a week over the next 3 months. Self-employed people with earnings that go up and down can still qualify, though. They can use an expected average for the current tax year if they need to.

If you’re on Universal Credit, up to 85% of your childcare costs can be claimed back through the system. You’ve still got to pay up-front and provide evidence of what you’ve spent, though.

Financial help for family members providing childcare

A lot of parents end up relying on family to help out with childcare, and the government’s pretty keen to encourage that.

Grandparents or other relatives who take care of children under 12 can claim Class 3 National Insurance credits for their trouble. It’s called the Specified Adult Childcare Scheme, and it’s designed to help out people who have to scale back their jobs to do look after children.

It’s been around since 2011, and it makes things a lot easier when you're offloading the kids onto family members for a few hours so you can work yourself. It basically just means that granddad doesn't lose out on his State Pension entitlement down the line. It doesn’t sound like much actual cash, but it’s a lot better than a hole in your National Insurance contribution history.

Tax refunds help with the cost of a family

Of course, taking care of your kids is much harder when you’re leaving bucketloads of your own cash on the taxman’s doorstep. An average tax refund claim with RIFT comes to an incredible £755.89 a year. This is all money that should be back in your pocket, and yet HMRC is still clinging onto millions in unpaid refunds every year.

You can claim back tax for up to 4 years, so it may not be too late to get back what you’re owed. Get in touch to start your claim rolling. When it comes to taking care of your family, you’re better off with RIFT.