Childcare Support under Social Security in the UK: Is it Working?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By facilitating engagement in the labour force and thus potentially contributing to the amelioration of individual poverty, the availability of affordable childcare is an issue of both economic and social significance and is recognised as such across Europe. Since a large majority of the parents who assume caring responsibilities for young children, particularly lone parents, are women, childcare support is also seen as an equality issue in relation to employment. Children’s interest in the parents’ childcare support is also recognised under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Support towards the cost of childcare has been an important feature of the UK social security system since the 1980s and is currently located within Universal Credit (UC) and Working Tax Credit (WTC) legislation. UC and WTC support sits alongside other childcare support schemes, including Tax-free Childcare. For the most disadvantaged, it is however the social security system’s role in this field that has the greatest importance, not least because the imposition of work conditionality and particularly its extension to lone parents with young children is premised on the claimant’s ability to access childcare arrangements. This article evaluates the framework for supporting childcare costs within the social security system in the light of the evidence to date on its operation, including the inherent discrimination that prompted the recent judicial review challenge in Salvato. It highlights flaws in the system and among other things calls for increased monitoring and public scrutiny of its operation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social Security Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022


  • Childcare
  • Universal Credit
  • Law


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