Financial help for parents in higher education
Full-time students with children may qualify for extra financial help on top of the standard student finance package. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get:
- the Childcare Grant (to help with childcare costs)
- the Parents’ Learning Allowance (to help towards course costs)
- help through the Support Funds (if you’re in financial difficulty)
- Child Tax Credit
The Childcare Grant is there to help full-time students with the cost of childcare during term times and holidays. Any money you get doesn’t have to be paid back.
You can apply if you:
- are a full-time student
- have dependent children under 15 and they’re in childcare that qualifies for the grant
- have dependent children under 17 with special needs - and they’re in childcare that qualifies for the grant
Maximum amounts available
The table below shows the maximum amounts available, but how much you actually get depends on:
- your income and the income of your dependants (for example, your spouse or partner)
- the actual costs of your childcare
|Number of children||Amounts available|
|one child||up to £148.75 a week (85 per cent of actual costs up to £175 a week)|
|two or more children||up to £255 a week (85 per cent of actual costs up to £300 a week)|
If you, or your spouse or partner, get the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit, you won’t be able to get the Childcare Grant as well.
Types of childcare that qualify
You can apply for the Childcare Grant if you use:
- a childminder, nursery or play scheme registered through a Health and Social Services Trust
- an out-of-hours club run by a school or by an Education Authority registered by a Health and Social Services Trust
- an approved foster carer, if the foster carer is not the foster parent of the child
- a carer in the child's own home who is approved under the Home Child Care Providers scheme
Childcare that doesn't qualify
Even if they're registered or approved, you won't be able to get the Childcare Grant if you use a childcare provider who:
- is your partner
- is a relative of your child and providing care in your child's own home
- is a relative of your child, is approved under the Approval of Home Child Care Providers scheme, is providing care away from your child's home and is only caring for children he or she is related to
A relative of the child means a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother or sister related by blood or marriage or a person with a strong relationship to the child (such as someone acting as a parent to their partner's children). If you've any questions about the meaning of 'relative', ask your Student Finance NI office.
Parents' Learning Allowance
The Parents' Learning Allowance can help pay for course-related costs such as books, materials and travel. It’s available on top of any standard student finance you get, and doesn’t have to be paid back.
The amount of Parents' Learning Allowance you get will depend on your household income, with the maximum allowance amounting to £1,538 a year.
You can apply whether you get the Childcare Grant.
Childcare Grant and Parents' Learning Allowance: how to apply
You can apply for the Childcare Grant or Parents' Learning Allowance before or during your course. On the main student finance application, complete the section that asks about applying for extra help for students with children.
Access to Support Funds
The Support Funds can provide support for students on lower incomes who run into financial problems. Universities and colleges decide how to distribute payments, but students with children - and especially lone parents - are a priority for the fund.
Child Tax Credit and other benefits
You may also be able to claim Child Tax Credit from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The amount you get will depend on your personal circumstances and income. Money you get through the Childcare Grant or Parents' Learning Allowance won’t be counted as income when working out your entitlement to tax credits or other benefits.
What to do if your circumstances change
If your circumstances change - for example, if your income goes up or down - it’s important to tell:
- your local Student Finance NI office if you’re getting the Childcare Grant or Parents’ Learning Allowance
- your university or college if you’re getting help through the Support Fund
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if you’re getting tax credits