Can I Claim Benefits If I Homeschool My Child in the UK?
Some of the questions I’m frequently being emailed are queries regarding homeschooling and tax credits, or homeschooling and benefits in general such as “Can I homeschool while on Universal credit?”
I thought I’d address people’s questions and concerns in this blog post, as homeschool finances are a concern to many.
If after reading this you feel that you would like 1-1 coaching to help guide you on your gentle parenting or home education journey please email me at email@example.com.
Home education has, in a way, become mainstream over the last year and many families have decided to continue home educating their children.
I have posts to answer many of the most common questions such as:
- How Much Does It Cost To Homeschool In the UK?
- What qualifications do you need to homeschool in the UK?
- What are the best affordable UK homeschool curriculums?
- Does the council have to check home educating families?
- How do you start homeschooling in the UK?
- How do home educated children socialise?
- How do you home educate multiple children of different ages?
- How do I find homeschool groups near me?
Finances, of course, are a big factor in making the decision to home educate, especially for families claiming benefits such as Universal Credit, or those with a low budget.
I’m happy to reassure families that you absolutely can homeschool on a low budget, and while on benefits. In this post I’ll explain how it all works, and go through individual examples that may apply to your family.
In that post I give examples of real-life families and the vastly different amounts they spend on home educating their children.
Most of the questions in this post are variations on the same theme but I’ll answer each one individually so that the specifics are covered for as many situations as possible.
You may also like my post on 100+ brilliant UK homeschooling resources, many of which are free.
“Can I claim benefits if I homeschool my child in the UK?”
Ok let’s get this answered straight away- homeschooling in itself does not affect your financial or benefits status in any way. If you are claiming benefits and you begin homeschooling your child, legally nothing changes at all.
You will be entitled to the same benefits- no more, no less. You do not get any specific or extra benefit for homeschooling and you also do not get financially penalised for removing your child from school or not applying for a school place.
“Tax credits and home education- how do they affect each other?”
Again, not at all if we are just talking about the child’s educational status. The only reason homeschooling may affect your tax credits is if it stops you working as much as you were (or, maybe, if it frees you up to work more, although I would guess this is rare).
You do not need to notify HMRC if you start homeschooling your child, if all of your other work situations remain the same.
“Can I claim child benefit if I homeschool my child?”
If you are usually allowed to claim child benefit (i.e, you do not earn over the threshold for claiming) then yes, your child benefit will not be affected by you homeschooling your child. Child benefit stops when your child is 16 years old unless the following circumstances apply.
Child benefit continues until your child turns 18 if they are in approved education or training as long as you inform the Child Benefit Office. Home education is approved for children aged 16+ years for child benefit purposes, as long as the home education started before the child was 16.
The exception to this rule is if you have a child with special needs, you are allowed to have started home educating after their 16th birthday and claim child benefit for them.
Parents/ legal carers are responsible for telling the Child Benefit Office that their child is continuing education or training after the age of 16; otherwise the Child Benefit will automatically stop on the child’s 16th birthday.
“Can I claim Universal Credit and homeschool?”
The answer to this is the same as the answer regarding benefits and tax credits. If your work situation remains the same your benefits should remain the same.
I have heard of cases where, for example, single parents need or want to homeschool and their Job Centre contact tries to tell them that they cannot because they need to work during school hours.
This is not strictly true as job opportunities should meet the needs including hours, of the homeschooling parent.
However, because of bad experiences of some home educators in the past, I suggest not mentioning home education to the Job Centre unless you feel you have to, as they may view it as trying to get out of work and others have had their claims cancelled in some cases.
Many home educating parents work from home, including myself, and I have written a blog post about managing the logistics of working from home as a single homeschooling parent.
“Do you get paid for homeschooling your child?”
There is no payment fund or facility for parents who choose to home educate their child. Home education is a choice made by parents (or legal guardians) and is self-funded.
Don’t let this put you off however- as I lay out in one of my blog posts (it contains information on the exact amount we spend each month as well as several other families), you can certainly home educate on a budget.
“Are there any homeschool grants or tax benefits?”
Edit for 2021: There seems to be a grant available to help with the costs of GCSEs, AS levels, VTQs and A levels, payable to the exam centres- I have not heard from any home educators who have successfully used this but it may be worth looking into if your child is taking, or has taken exams.
There are no specific grants or tax benefits specifically for parents who choose to home educate their child (this includes people who feel as if they had no choice- if you deregister you are deemed to be electively home educating).
However, when it comes to financial help for homeschooling, there are grants available to apply for, for home educating families who meet certain criteria such as having a child with a disability (Family Fund is one such example). These grants are available to schooling or homeschooling families.
In some rare circumstances, some families are awarded a personal budget allocated by the local authority if it is proven that the local authority cannot adequately meet a child’s educational needs. This budget is to be spent on the child’s educational needs.
“Is there any homeschooling funding available for people homeschooling on benefits?”
At the moment there is no centralised funding for home education. It is privately funded by homeschooling families themselves.
I have known families to club together to hire a hall for activities, for example, and home educators are free to apply for community grants for classes or clubs, but there is no specific pool of money for home educators at the moment.
“How much does it cost to homeschool/ start homeschooling on benefits?”
There are no obligatory purchases when it comes to home education, which often comes as both a surprised and a relief to families. I know families who are home educating on a shoestring, and others who spend a lot on their children’s activities.
There is no right or wrong way to home educate, and the amount of money spent on a child’s activities is in no way an indicator of how successful home education will be for them. I’ve written a full post on how much homeschooling in the UK costs.
After 10 years of home educating my three kids, I got fed up of there being so few affordable home education resources that I started my own business with another home educating parent and ex-teacher.
We now produce genuinely engaging, cross-curricular, unschooling-friendly activity packs that are super affordable. I am happy to say that I have a code, GRAB10, for anyone to use and get 10% off store-wide at www.clmeducationalresources.com.
There are themes such as Minecraft, Among Us, Minibeasts, Oceans, Dinosaurs and more as well as a fantastic early years home education curriculum. They provide digital versions of all their resources so anyone can access them from around the world- and the best bit is that the resources start at £7.99!
“Can I claim housing benefit while homeschooling my child?”
If you are usually allowed to claim housing benefit then homeschooling will not directly affect this.
Homeschooling on Benefits: In Summary
Homeschooling on benefits may seem daunting, but it is a reality for many families in the UK and it is perfectly legal. Using a school place costs the taxpayer on average around £5000 per year for a primary child, and I feel strongly that families should not be shamed for choosing to take on this responsibility themselves if they are claiming benefits.
Home educating a child is a big commitment and very brave, and now that there are many free or low-cost resources for home educating, it is happily a choice that families on a low income can make for their child’s wellbeing.
I’ve written some ideas in this post of how to homeschool on a budget so hopefully that will help prospective homeschooling parents with figuring out homeschooling and finances; you will also like this post on over 100 low-cost and free homeschooling resources!. Do have a look at the rest of my homeschooling blog posts for more info, tips and advice for your homeschooling journey and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel you could benefit from 1-1 support with me as your home education coach.