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For working parents, one major financial strain is the cost of childcare. If you’ve got a couple of kids under school age, it’s likely that quite a big part of your wage will go towards someone looking after your little ones while you’re in work.

That’s why the Government’s pledge to provide free childcare and early years education for two to four-year-olds by 2017 probably came as welcome news to you. How much childcare you get will depend on your child’s age and your individual situation, so let’s take a look at what you could claim.

How old are your kids?

Children aged three to four can currently get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. This breaks down to five hours each week for 38 weeks of the year.

From 2017, this is set to increase to 30 hours of free childcare a week. The Chancellor announced this plan in the Autumn Statement 2015 and a pilot scheme is set to take place in September 2016.

The extra 15 hours of free childcare are only for parents working more than 16 hours a week and earning less than £100,000 a year. It’s also only for families in England.

You might be able to claim the 15 hours of free childcare or early years education if your child is aged two as well. To qualify, you’ll have to receive one of:

• Income Support

• income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

• income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

• support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act

• Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit and have an annual income under £16,190

• the guarantee element of State Pension Credit

• the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on, or

• Universal Credit.

Your two-year-old could also qualify if they:

• are looked after by a local council

• have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education health and care plan

• get Disability Living Allowance, or

• have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order.

What other help is available?

You may also be able to claim Child Tax Credit to help towards childcare costs. You can claim up to £122.50 extra per week for one child or £210 for two or more children. How much you get will depend on how much you earn – check out our blog on benefits if you work at least 16 hours a week for more info.

It’s also worth seeing if your employer offers childcare vouchers or any discounted childcare. You don’t have to pay income tax or National Insurance on some workplace childcare benefits, including:

• childcare vouchers

• childcare your employer arranges, or

• workplace nurseries.

You will have to pay tax and National Insurance on:

• cash from your employer for childcare

• childcare fees your employer pays, or

• school fees your employer pays.

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