If you have children this can be a particularly difficult time. This guide will look at what help is available if their school has closed, what this means for your childcare costs and what happens if you are entitled to free school meals.

If your child’s school has closed

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Schools across the UK have closed to everyone apart from for the children of key workers. This might be a difficult time for parents, but there are options available to you.

If you’re an employee, you are entitled to take time off to care for a dependent child. There are no rules around how much time you can take off and you should talk to your employer about your options.

You might also be able to take time off as holiday leave.

If you’re worried about childcare costs

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If your hours have been reduced, your income has gone down, you might be worried about how this will affect any help you get towards childcare costs.

With the lockdown in place and some childcare providers closing temporarily, you might also be concerned if you’ve paid in advance to retain your child’s place, or if your childcare needs have stopped completely.

If you claim through the tax-free childcare scheme, this is usually based on a three-month period, so support will depend on when you next need to report your income.

You can withdraw money from your tax-free childcare account, but for every £8 you take out, the government will take back its £2 contribution.

Learn more about tax-free childcare, withdrawals and access your account on the Gov.uk website.

If you’re getting the childcare costs element of Universal Credit, or getting help through tax credits, the number of hours you’re now working and your income can affect how much help you get towards childcare costs.

Find out how coronavirus affects childcare support and benefits for children on the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group website.

If you’re getting free school meals

Schools are making provisions to provide meals, vouchers and food parcels to everyone who is eligible for free school meals.

How this is happening depends on the school your child is attending and where in the country you live.

If you live in England visit the Gov.uk website.
In Wales visit the Gov.wales website.
In Scotland visit the Mygov.scot website.
In Northern Ireland visit the NI Direct website.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.