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Your handy guide to childcare support and benefits

Did you know that you can get help with the cost of your child going to a registered nursery, playgroup or childminder?

All childcare providers must be registered with the care inspectorate

Early Learning and Childcare

Funded by the Scottish government through your local council, high quality early learning and childcare helps give your little one the best possible start. It will help with your child’s language and social skills, encouraging them to learn through play with other children.

How many hours of funded early learning and childcare can my child get?

If you have a 3 or 4 year-old, you can get up to 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare a year.

Depending on what type of service you use, that gives your child about 16 hours a week if you use it during school term-time, or around 12 hours a week if you use it year round.

By August 2020, The Scottish Government is increasing the number of hours you child can get to 1140 hours a year, giving you more choice on when and where you can use it. That’s about 30 hours a week during school term time or around 22 hours a week if you take it year round.

The increase in funding to 1140 hours is being phased in between now and August 2020, if you’d like to find out what’s happening in your area, your local council will be able to tell you more.

To see what your local council currently offers use the ‘choose your council’ drop down tab on the MYGOV website.

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When can my child access funded early learning and childcare?

All three and four-year-olds across Scotland qualify for funded early learning and childcare, and so do some two year olds – those who meet the eligibility criteria.

The date your child can start using early learning and childcare support depends on their birthday. You can find out more about start and stop dates on MYGOV. Your council might also have their own rules on when your child can start so it’s best to check with them to find out how it works in your area.

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Can my 2 year old get funded hours?

Some 2 year olds are entitled to funded early learning and childcare. If your child is 2 or over and, since turning 2, has been:

  • Looked after by a local council
  • The subject of a kinship care order
  • The subject of a guardianship order


If you get one of the benefits below:

Then you can contact your local council to find out how it works in your area.

  • Income Support (IS)
  • Job Seeker's Allowance (income based)
  • Any income related element of Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity or Severe Disablement Allowance
  • State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, but not Working Tax Credit and your income is less than £16,105
  • Both maximum Child Tax Credit and maximum Working Tax Credit (which you get when you’re working 16 hours a week or less).Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit and your household take-home pay*, is £610 a month or less

* "Take-home pay" is the money your household receives from work after tax, National Insurance and any pension contributions have been taken off. Your award letter will tell you how much your take-home pay is for the claim period. This should be £610 or less.

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How do I apply?

Your local council will have its own application process for accessing funded early learning and childcare, so it’s best to check with them how it works in your area.

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Where can I find out more?

For more information on funded early learning and childcare, contact your local council. You can find contact details for each local council on the ‘choose your council’ drop down tab on the MYGOV website.

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What other ways can you get help with childcare costs?

Is there any other help available to me with childcare costs?

If you are paying for private childcare and live in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Dumfries & Galloway, you might be eligible for our Deposit Guarantee Scheme to help reduce upfront fees. You can find out more at the Early Years Scotland website here

Other help might be available through

  • Tax free childcare
  • Tax credits for childcare
  • Universal credit for childcare

For information on eligibility and how to apply please visit

You can also use the GOV.UK childcare calculator to see if you are eligible for any other help with childcare costs

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If you’re a student

If you are studying at Higher Education level (HNC/HND at college or undergraduate level at University) then you may be able to apply to your college or universities Childcare Fund. This Fund, provided by the Scottish Government is to help towards the cost of registered or formal childcare costs.  This includes: childminders, after school clubs, day care, sitter services and providers of pre-school and education.  Each college or University is responsible for deciding which students should receive payments and how much each payment should be.

You may also be eligible for support from your College or universities discretionary funds.  More information on all support available to students studying at HNC/HND level or above, can be found on the Student Awards Agency Scotland website.

If you are studying at further education level at college then you may be able to get some additional funding to help pay towards childcare.

Each college has a Childcare Fund to help their students pay for registered childcare. Priority is given to certain groups including lone parents, mature students and part-time students although other full time students can apply too.  The support available differs from college to college. To find out what is available you should speak to your college funding team.

You may also be able to get help towards childcare costs from your colleges discretionary fund, you can find out more about this here

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If you work

If you’re a working parent, you can take advantage of the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. You should also check if your employer offers childcare vouchers. You can find out more about them here.

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If you already get Universal Credit

You may be able to claim 85% of your childcare costs if you currently get Universal Credit.

However, you can't get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as claiming Working Tax Credit, an Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers.

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