The cheapest ways to homeschool your children during lockdown

Linda J. Dodson

Whether or not it makes more sense to pay for childcare or take a salary cut by stopping work will depend on your earnings. 

The average wage of a full-time worker is £585 a week, pre-tax, meaning that in most cases it would work out cheaper to hire someone to look after your child rather than sacrificing your pay. There are also ways you can get extra support to cover the costs of childcare.  

Extra support

A number of online tutors are offering their services for free to help working parents through the pandemic. 

Parents could also claim help via the benefits system. Anyone who is eligible for Universal Credit may be able to claim back up to 85pc of their childcare costs. The maximum you can receive each month is £646 for one child or £1,108 for two or more children. 

If you don’t qualify for help via Universal Credit, you may be eligible for tax-free childcare instead. It is available to around 10 million families, although only around one in 10 currently claim it.

The scheme gives parents a 25pc top-up on childcare bills, offering up to £2,000 a year. However Royal London’s Becky O’Connor warned that many ad hoc and individual childcare providers are not signed up to the scheme, meaning parents relying on these carers will not be able to benefit. 

Families should also check whether changing circumstances have made them eligible for other tax breaks. Many parents have opted out of receiving child benefit because they are higher earners and claiming it would trigger a tax charge.

If their income falls to less than £50,000 during the coronavirus outbreak they should think about reclaiming the benefit. Parents earning under £60,000 but more than £50,000 could also claim child benefit, but would still have to pay a proportion back through the charge in their next tax return.

“Those who anticipate a drop in income this tax year to below the threshold might also want to start claiming again now, in advance of their income falling, if they need help with living costs imminently,” Ms O’Connor said. 

The weekly rate for child benefit is £21.05 for the first child and £13.95 for any additional children. 

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