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Childcare in the UK

How much does childcare cost?

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How much does childcare cost?

Childcare adds a significant amount to your monthly outgoings. Here, we help you compare the cost of sending your child to nursery school, day nursery or play group, or using a childminder, au pair or nanny.

Childcare can be expensive and in recent years nursery costs have been rising faster than the rate of inflation.

There are government schemes which can give you a helping hand, but if you're returning to work, you'll need to think about the various factors affecting how much you can afford to pay for childcare. 

Taking on part-time hours will obviously affect your income – if the average cost of a part-time childminder is £109.84 a week, that's a £5,492 chunk out of your yearly salary, assuming a couple of weeks off for holiday periods. A nanny can cost as much as £25,000 a year if you're living in London.

Childcare vouchers can cut costs as they allow you to pay for childcare from your pre-tax salary. The scheme was due to close in April 2018 but has been given a recent six-month extension.

Tax-free childcare was launched in April 2017 and gives eligible families an extra 20% towards childcare costs. Find out which scheme is right for you in our guide to tax-free childcare vs childcare vouchers.

You may also be eligible for tax credits: either child tax credit or the childcare element of working tax credit. 

All three and four-year olds can get 15 hours of free childcare and early learning for 38 weeks of the year in England, and 10 hours a week in Wales. In Scotland, three and four-year-olds are eligible for 600 hours of free childcare a year. This free provision is also extended to two-year-olds in disadvantaged circumstances. You can also apply to get a further 15 hours, taking the total up to 30 hours of free childcare, but you must work the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum and living wage. If in a couple, both parents must work and no one parent can earn more than £100,000 per year.

and entitles you to 15-30 hours free childcare, in our guide to getting help with childcare costs.  

The table below provides an at-a-glance rundown of your childcare options and the corresponding costs, as well as those extra monetary factors to think about with each one.

Childcare costs compared

Childcare costs
  How much does it cost? What should I know?
Childminder - 25 hours a week
  • British average: £109.84 per week (under 2s) / £109.29 per week (2+)
  • London average: £146.31 per week (under 2s) / £144.27 per week (2+)
  • You don’t need to deal with the childminder's tax or National Insurance contributions
  • You can use childcare vouchers or claim working tax credit if your childminder is Ofsted registered
Day nursery - 25 hours a week
  • British average: £116.25 per week (under 2s) / £112.38 per week (2+)
  • London average: £154.08 per week(under 2s) / £156.67 per week (2+)
  • Fees can be subsidised by local authorities or employers
  • You can use childcare vouchers or claim working tax credit
Au pair
  • About £65 - £85 per week, plus room and board
  • You won't be able to use childcare vouchers or claim working tax credit
Nanny (live in)
  • British average: £427.74 per week
  • London average: £462.09 per week
  • You can use childcare vouchers or claim working tax credit if your nanny is Ofsted registered
  • You’ll need to sort out the nanny's tax and National Insurance contributions through PAYE
Nanny (live out)
  • British average: £438.33 per week
  • London average: £478.23 per week
  • You can use childcare vouchers or claim working tax credit if your nanny is Ofsted registered
  • You’ll need to sort out the nanny's tax and National Insurance contributions through PAYE
After-school care - 15 hours a week
  • British average: £52.58 per week
  • London average: £42.09 per week
  • You’ll need to sort out alternative care to cover school holidays
After-school childminder - 15 hours a week
  • British average: £67.11 per week
  • London average: £97.12 per week
  • You’ll need to sort out alternative care to cover school holidays
Informal arrangements with shared parental care or care from family/friends
  • Can be free but, if you intend to pay them, you’ll need to sort out tax
  • You may need to factor in loss of income if one or both parents are taking some time off for childcare duties
  • You won't get any government support
Play group
  • £3 to £9 per session
  • You'll need to sort out alternative care to cover school holidays and/or the rest of the day
  • If your child is three or four and you live in England, they can get 30 hours of free childcare a week
Nursery school
  • Costs can vary, starting from around £30 per day
  • May be covered as part of a state scheme where you can access it free of charge
See our page on childcare options to better understand the different types of childcare, including their pros and cons. 
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