Universal Credit Q&A – Can I get help with nursery or childcare fees upfront? – The Sun

Universal Credit Q&A – Can I get help with nursery or childcare fees upfront? – The Sun


ONE of the biggest barriers for parents going back to work is how they’ll afford nursery or childcare.

Our welfare expert Nichola Salvato helps answer your queries on childcare costs – and what you’re entitled to.

Working parents can get up to 85 per cent of childcare fees paid back on Universal Credit.

But this is paid in arrears, meaning many have to stump up hundreds of pounds up front.

The Sun wants the government to pay childcare fees upfront. It’s one of our Make Universal Credit Work campaign demands.

In the latest installment of our Universal Credit Q&A Nichola, who has four years experience in welfare rights, answers a question from one worried grandmother.

Do you have a question? Email money@the-sun.co.uk.

My daughter is in part-time work and needs to put her little boy in to nursery.

If she can’t get help with the fees she may have to give up work.

She can’t get an advance or budgeting loan as her earnings are over the threshold.

Any advice please? Caroline, via Twitter.

Nichola replies: I’m very sorry to hear of your daughter’s predicament Caroline! I really feel for her.

I found myself in very similar circumstances not so long ago and it was this that made me decide to challenge the way childcare costs work under
Universal Credit in the High Court.

Firstly, If your grandson is of nursery age he will be entitled to 15 or 30 free hours of nursery school depending on his age and your daughters income.

If your daughter hasn’t already accessed this free provision, tell her to approach her health visitor or local authority Family Service who can advise her of providers in her area.

Unfortunately, if your daughter needs more childcare than the free nursery provision then as the rules stand there is no official help with advance childcare costs.

As you mention, she has earned too much to qualify for the budgeting advance.

While the Flexible Support Fund is only available to those who have been in work for six months or less.

Universal Credit is supposed to make work pay, NOT create a situation where people must give up work or reduce hours.

That’s why The Sun has been campaigning to get these fees paid upfront.

At the moment her options are really limited.

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.

One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.

But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:

  1. Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
  2. Keep more of what you earn:The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
  3. Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story. 


When I was in her situation, I ended up taking out a private loan to pay for childcare – but it really is a one-way ticket to more hardship and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Does she have any family or friends she could borrow from? And then make an agreement to repay the cash interest free.

The only other option is a grant to help towards the cost. The Turn2Us website will be able to point you in the right direction.

If it’s any comfort Caroline, your daughter is not alone, these rules will impact 500,000 families across the country when UC has fully rolled out.

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Watch this space though, with the support of The Sun’s Make Universal Credit Work campaign, Save the Children’s ‘Mums on a Mission’ and my solicitors at Leigh Day, we are working very hard to bring about a change to these rules.

I really hope your daughter finds a way to keep her job and access safe, good quality childcare for her son.

You can follow Nichola on Twitter – @SalvatoNichola

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