What kind of childcare and support can you expect as a young parent studying, working or living unemployed in the UK? Here’s a list to help all young parents out there.
Juggling multiple responsibilities can be tough and exhausting. But this is often the reality for young parents who are trying to excel at work, school, or university at the same time as providing the best start in life for their children.
If this is you, you might feel overwhelmed and stressed out at times. That’s completely normal. Parenting is tough at any stage of life, but can be particularly challenging for young people.
But you don’t need to struggle alone. Help and support is out there so you can do the best thing for yourself and your child(ren.)
We’ve compiled a list of services and resources to help you.
Government Childcare Subsidies While You Study
Childcare in the UK is among the most expensive in Europe, averaging €1190 (about £1080) per month for a child under five as of 2019. This is one of the main factors which prevents young parents from returning to work or school, and particularly impacts young women, who statistically bear a much greater percentage of the child-rearing workload.
But if you want to further your education, childcare costs shouldn’t be a barrier to that. That’s why these three forms of government support are available to help you cover the costs of childcare while you go to school, college, or university:
1. Care to Learn
If you’re under 20 at the start of your course, you might qualify for Care to Learn childcare subsidies if you’re studying at a publicly funded institution (e.g. a state school, sixth form, or sixth form college.) Payments are up to £160 per child per week outside of London, and £175 per child per week if you live in the capital.
Care to Learn Payments are made directly to your childcare provider once they have confirmed that your child is registered and your school or college has confirmed your attendance on a course.
You can also sometimes get help with your travel costs. These funds will be paid to your school or college, who will either arrange your transport or pass the money along to you.
2. Learner Support
Learner Support for childcare is available to young parents aged 20 or over, and on a Further Education course (e.g. BTEC, NVQ, PGCE) at an institution funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. Your learning provider will decide how much you get and how best to pay the money to you – it might be paid into your bank account, or directly to your childcare provider.
Each college has their own application process, so ask yours what you have to do.
3. Childcare Grant
Childcare Grants are available to full-time students enrolled on a Higher Education course (i.e. university) in England, and who have children under the age of 15 (or under 17 if they have special educational needs.)
Your childcare provider must be on the Ofsted Early Years Register or General Childcare Register. Alternatively, your child may be cared for at home by a childminder registered with an appropriate professional body.
The amount you’ll get depends on your total household income and how many children you have. For example, in the 2020/21 academic year, you can get either up to 85% of your total childcare costs or a fixed maximum (£174.22 per week for one child, £289.69 per week for two or more children) – whichever amount is smaller.
You’ll need to set up a Childcare Grant Payment Service account for your money to be paid into. Your childcare provider will be paid from this account. You can apply for a Childcare Grant along with the rest of your student loan application through Student Finance England.
Free Childcare for Two, Three and Four Year Olds
If you have a two-year-old and are eligible (receiving certain benefits, if your child is disabled, or if your child is being looked after by a local authority,) you can get up to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks (or 570 hours per year) free childcare.
If you (and your partner, if you have one) work at least 16 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage or above, but do not earn more than £100,000 per year, your 15 hours free childcare rises to 30 hours.
You can use your hours flexibly with more than one provider if you wish.
Universal Credit for Childcare
Universal Credit is the Government’s new scheme which has replaced a number of previous benefits including Tax Credits. If you (and your partner, if you have one) are working or due to start work, and receive Universal Credit, you can claim back up to 85% of your monthly childcare costs for children under the age of 17.
Tax Free Childcare is a way for working families with children up to the age of 11 (or 16 if the child is disabled) to get cost-effective childcare. You set up a special online account and for every £8 you pay in, the Government will contribute an additional £2 up to £2000 per child, per year. You must be earning at least £139 per week (16 hours’ work at the National Minimum Wage) and under £100,000 per year to be eligible.
Family Lives in a registered charity in England and Wales which focuses on building happier, healthier family relationships. They have a fantastic advice and resources section dedicated to young parents, with information on everything from housing and childcare costs to food, education, and money.
Family Lives also has a free, confidential 24/7 helpline which you can call if you need help, advice, or just a caring person to listen. You can reach them on 0808 800 222.
Gingerbread is a registered charity dedicated to supporting single parents. They have a useful section of advice and resources specifically for young single parents on their website.
They also offer an online forum where you can chat, get advice, and share support with other single parents, and local single parent social groups that meet in various cities across England and Wales.
Little Lullaby is an online community for young parents run by The Lullaby Trust, a registered charity working to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS.) Little Lullaby campaigns to raise awareness on this issue but also does much more to support and empower young parents, and to challenge stereotypes about them.
Their support and advice pages are packed with valuable information on all kinds of topics related to young parenting, and if you sign up as a member (which is free,) you can chat nd share experiences with other young parents.
Legal Rights to Support Working Parents
As a parent, there are certain legal protections you are entitled to. You have the right to flexibility with your working schedule in order to accommodate childcare. Under these arrangements, you agree a number of working hours per week with your employer but work them with some flexibility. In practice, this might mean coming in early and leaving early so that you can pick your child up from school, or starting work later to allow for taking your child to their childcare provider. In some situations, it might also include things like remote work arrangements.
All employees are entitled to time off to deal with emergencies or care for dependents, including children. There’s no specified legal limit to this, so it will depend on your employer and the situation. Many employers will pay you for this time, but they do not have to.
You are also entitled to unpaid parental leave for purposes related to your child’s welfare. Examples might include pre-arranged (i.e. non-emergency) medical appointments for your child, taking time to settle them into a new childcare arrangement, or looking at schools. Though this time is unpaid, your employer is not legally allowed to sack or discipline you for taking it.
Being a young parent is challenging, especially if you’re trying to work or study at the same time. You might feel a lot of pressure to “do it all” by yourself. But you don’t have to!
Reaching out for help is an incredibly strong thing to do. You deserve all the support you need so that you, and your child(ren), can reach your full potential.