MUM-of-three Vicky Baker landed her dream job as a teaching assistant after a major change to Universal Credit rules that finally made childcare affordable.
Around 800,000 more families could also be eligible for the same help but aren't claiming it.
Vicky, from the South West of England, was able to take the job as a teaching assistant in a special needs school after realising she could get some of her childcare costs paid upfront on Universal Credit.
The 31-year-old who previously worked part-time, was worried that she wouldn't be able to claim more hours of free childcare.
After contacting her local Jobcentre and speaking with a work coach, she learned of the increased Universal Credit assistance.
Since June 28, parents on the benefit have been able to get their childcare costs paid upfront – a huge win for The Sun’s Make Universal Credit Work campaign which had called for this help.
Before the change, Vicky would have had to fork out the money herself, before claiming it back – something she would have struggled to find the money for.
The amount of cash parents can claim for one child also increased over the summer, to £951 for one child and £1,630 for two.
This means parents with one child could get upwards of £10,460 a year.
The new rates help cover rising nursery and childminder fees.
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Vicky said: "I spoke to my local Jobcentre and explained that before I could take the job it was crucial that I could get help with childcare costs.
"My work coach explained that I could claim 85% of my childcare costs through Universal Credit."
Before June, most parents on the benefit could claim 85% of their childcare costs but they had to pay first before claiming the money back later on.
Now, anyone who starts work or significantly increases their work hours can get their childcare costs paid upfront instead.
Vicky said: "The nursery needed a deposit and one-month fees upfront and I was overjoyed when the Jobcentre agreed to fund these for me – it meant I could take the job and not worry about those initial costs.
"I love my new job and being able to claim 85% of the childcare costs back will make such a difference to us."
The Sun has previously highlighted the plight of parents who wanted to go back to work – but were unable to or forced into debt by the cost of childcare.
We called on the government to make the change so that parents should get the 85% of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
But 800,000 households could be missing out on the support, according to the latest Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures.
Who is eligible and how do I apply for Universal Credit childcare costs?
You need to be either:
- In paid work
- Starting a job in the next month
If you live with a partner, you both need to be in paid work, unless your partner cannot look after your children.
It does not matter how many hours you work – there is no minimum.
It must be paid work, so you’re not eligible if you are volunteering and only getting money for expenses.
If you’re on sick leave, you may also be eligible if you're getting statutory sick pay
If you're on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, you may also be eligible if you're getting one of:
- Statutory maternity pay
- Statutory paternity pay
- Statutory shared parental pay
- Statutory adoption pay
- Maternity allowance
You can claim childcare costs for all the children you're responsible for, until the 31 August after their 16th birthday.
To apply for the extra support you'll need to speak to your work coach or put in a request in your Universal Credit journal.
You will need to have proof of your childcare provider and payments.
As proof of your provider, you need a contract, invoice or letter from them showing all of these:
- Their name, registration number, address and phone number
- The names of your children that they look after
- The type of childcare, for example, after-school or nursery care
You only need to do this once per provider.
As standard, you'd be expected to pay for the childcare first and claim 85% of the cost back.
But if you cannot pay that upfront cost, you might be able to get help with that.
You may be able to get help from the Flexible Support Fund if you have to pay upfront childcare costs and one of the following applies:
- You're starting work
- You're increasing the hours you work, for example, you’ve moved from part-time work to full-time work
Use your online account or contact your work coach to ask for help from the Flexible Support Fund.
Your work coach will then decide if you're eligible for help from the Flexible Support Fund.
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They'll give you form FSF3 form that has a section you'll need to ask your childcare provider to complete.
You do not have to pay back money from the Flexible Support Fund.
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