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I’m a student and I pay for childcare – what extra further education funding can I get?

By David Malcolm

Friday 12 April 2013 Further education

If you’re a student in further education in the UK and you pay for childcare for your children, you can apply for government help with the costs, depending on your age and where you live. Here’s an overview of what’s available.

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I’m under 20 years old – what support can I get from the government in England?

If you live in England and you’re under 20 years old when you start a full- or part-time course of further education in England, Wales or Scotland, you can get help with the costs of childcare for your own children as part of the Care to Learn scheme. These costs might include deposits and registration fees, a childcare ‘taster’ session (up to five days), keeping your childcare place over the summer holidays and taking your child to the childcare provider.

You can get up to £160 per child each week (or £175 per child each week if you live in London). These figures are for 2013. Childcare payments go directly to your childcare provider, and payments for travel costs go to your school or college – they’ll either pay you or arrange travel for you. The amount you get doesn’t depend on the benefits you receive, and it doesn’t affect the benefits you can claim.

Care to Learn covers your childcare costs until you complete your course, even if you’re 20 years old or older by that time. However, the scheme only funds registered or approved childcare. If you have informal childcare arrangements, you can apply for support from the Discretionary Learner Support at your college (see I’m 20 years old or older – what support can I get from the government in England?).

To apply for Care to Learn support, call the Learner Support helpline (0800 121 8989, 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) to get an application form and guidance notes. Here’s the government’s information about Care to Learn.

I’m 20 years old or older – what support can I get from the government in England?

If you live in England and you’re 20 years old or older when you start a full- or part-time course of further education in England, you could get help with your childcare costs through Discretionary Learner Support.

Your learning provider (eg your college) decides how much you get. It depends on your circumstances. They also decide how the support is given to you, eg a direct payment to you, a loan, or a payment to someone else, eg your childcare provider.

You can’t get funds if you’re taking some kinds of further education course, eg an apprenticeship.

If you’re younger than 20 years old when you start your course and can’t get help with your childcare costs through the Care to Learn scheme (because your childcare arrangements are informal – eg a relative looks after your children) you can apply for help through Discretionary Learner Support instead.

To apply for Discretionary Learner Support, speak to your learning provider – each one has their own application process. Here’s the government’s information about Discretionary Learner Support.

What support can I get from the government in Wales?

If you’re studying at a school or college in Wales you can apply for help from the Financial Contingency Fund. Your learning provider (eg your college) decides how much you get. It depends on your circumstances. They also decide how the support is given to you, eg a direct payment to you, a loan, or a payment to someone else, eg your childcare provider.

To apply, speak to your learning provider – each one has their own application process.

If you’re on a work-based learning course you can apply for help from the learning provider where you’re studying, and if you’re staying on in school or are learning in the community, apply for help from the local council where you’re studying.

I’m under 20 years old – what support can I get from the government in Northern Ireland?

If you live in Northern Ireland and you’re 16 years old or older but under 20 years old when you start a full- or part-time course of further education, you can get help with the costs of childcare for your own children as part of the Care to Learn (NI) scheme. These costs can also include fees to keep your childcare place during the holidays, and transport costs for taking your child to and from the childcare provider.

You can get up to £165 per child each week (this figure is for 2012). The amount you get doesn’t depend on the benefits you receive, and it doesn’t affect the benefits you can claim.

You can continue to get Care to Learn (NI) help with your childcare costs if you become 20 years old during your course. However, the scheme only funds registered or approved childcare. If you have informal childcare arrangements, you can apply for support from the Discretionary Support Funds at your college (see I’m a student in further education – where can I get help if I’m in financial difficulty?).

To apply for Care to Learn (NI) support, speak to your further education college. You can apply in advance if you expect to become a parent during your course. If you’re under 16 years old, your college will refer you to the Education Welfare Service of your local Education & Library Board.

Here’s the government’s information about the Care to Learn Scheme.

I’m 19 years old or older – what support can I get from the government in Northern Ireland?

If you live in Northern Ireland, you’re 19 years old or older when you start your full- or part-time course, and you get a Further Education Award (see I’m a student aged 19 years old or older – what further education funding can I get in Northern Ireland?) you can get a Childcare Grant to help with the costs of childcare for your children.

The amount you get depends on your household income and how many dependent children you have. If you’re taking a full-time course, you can get up to £130 for one child, or £220 for two or more. If you’re studying part-time, the amount you get also depends on how many taught and compulsory placement hours you spend on your course each week – up to £65 a week for one child if you spend 8 to 14 hours a week on your course, or £110 for two or more children. Whether your course is full- or part-time, you don’t get anything if your household income is £38,806 a year or more.

You can claim during term time, and the Christmas and Easter holidays if your childminder charges you. If you’re taking a two year course you can get help with childcare costs for the summer holidays between years one and two.

Your childcare provider must be registered or approved by the Health and Social Care Trust – you can’t get the grant if your partner or a relative cares for your children. If you have informal childcare arrangements, you can apply for support from the Discretionary Support Funds at your college (see I’m a student in further education – where can I get help if I’m in financial difficulty?).

If you claim the Childcare Grant you can’t claim childcare support from the Care to Learn scheme (or from HM Revenue & Customs if you’re taking a full-time course).

For more information, download a guide with full details from Education Support for Northern Ireland.

What support can I get from the government in Scotland?

If you’re studying at a school or college in Scotland you can apply for help from the Childcare Fund to pay for registered childcare. Your learning provider (eg your college) decides how much you get. It depends on your circumstances, and colleges often give priority to single parents, mature students and part-time students. They also decide how the support is given to you, eg a direct payment to you, a loan, or a payment to someone else, eg your childcare provider. Some colleges may offer different methods of support, eg on-site nurseries or childcare vouchers.

You can also get help with extra costs for travel (eg to and from your childcare provider).

If you’re a single (lone) parent bringing up your children on your own, you can get a Lone Parents' Childcare Grant to help with the cost of registered or formal childcare. You can get up to £1,215, depending on the cost of your childcare (this figure is for 2013). The amount you get doesn’t depend on your income.

You can get childcare support on top of any bursary funding you receive. To apply, speak to your learning provider (eg your college).

What other funding is available for student parents?

As a student parent you may be entitled to get government benefits and tax credits. For more information, see Alternative sources of student funding overview.

For more help, Student Parents has information on funding, including a funding calculator and other tips.

Related topics

What further education funding is available in England?

What further education funding is available in Wales?

What further education funding is available in Northern Ireland?

What further education funding is available in Scotland?

This information was updated in March 2013. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.