Grandparents' childcare credit

Boost your state pension if you care for a young family member

If before reaching state pension age, you care (or cared) for a young family member while the child's parents were at work, there's a little-known credit that could boost your state pension by £1,000s. These credits work by filling in gaps you may have in your national insurance record, which is what dictates your state pension amount. This step-by-step guide tells you how to check if you qualify and how to apply if so.

Important: Childcare credits are only available for childcare you provide(d) BEFORE you reach state pension age (currently 66 for both men and women). If you've only started caring for a family member since reaching state pension age, see if you can boost your entitlement with voluntary NI contributions.

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Caring for young relatives can boost your state pension by £1,000s

This benefit is all about maxing out your state pension entitlement.
How much state pension you get depends on if you reached state pension age before or after April 2016 – see our State pension guide for details – but either way it's based on your national insurance (NI) record.
Your NI record is made up of 'qualifying years'. Each year you meet the criteria for a NI credit during your working life, it appears on your NI record as a 'full qualifying year'. Being in paid employment is one of many ways you can earn these years automatically.
But if you haven't earned enough automatic credits to qualify for the full state pension, there are a range of scenarios that entitle you to apply for NI credits manually. These plug gaps in your NI record and boost your state pension entitlement – potentially by £1,000s.
There are many ways to do this, including buying them (see our Buying NI years guide) but this guide focuses on one of the lesser-known ways – looking after a family member under the age of 12 while their parent works.
This works by giving the NI credit(s) that normally would go to an off-work childcaring parent to the family member caring for the child instead.
Only childcare you provided before you reached state pension age counts, though you can backdate your claim back to 2011, so if you were caring for a child in your family and have since reached state pension age, you could still benefit.
If you qualify, the gains can be huge, as was the case with MoneySaver Mick, who tweeted MSE founder Martin Lewis to say:

Martin, I can’t thank you enough for this. This describes our circumstances perfectly. My wife retired five years early to help with our young grandchildren. She was four years short of full state pension. We will now save £3,000 from not having to buy the missing years.

If you've helped look after a family member under 12 years old, while their parents are at work, you could get these 'specified adult childcare credits' to top up your NI record. Follow the four steps to see if you can benefit...

Step 1: Check your current state pension entitlement

If you're already on track to get the full state pension, or are receiving a full state pension already, adding extra childcare credits won't boost it beyond the maximum. So, the first thing you need to do is check your state pension entitlement:

  • Haven't yet reached state pension age? Check your entitlement using the state pension forecast calculator. The full state pension for you is £221.20 a week, so if you're not predicted to get that you need to check your national insurance (NI) record for gaps.

  • Already reached state pension age? If you're not already receiving the maximum state pension, you need to check your NI record for any incomplete years. Since people's maximums depend on their own record and when they retired, it's best to check anyway that you're getting the full amount.

In either case, if you have gaps in your NI record between 2011 and now, your state pension entitlement isn't maxed out, and you've cared for a young family member since 2011, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Check if you're able to fill gaps in your NI record with childcare credits

You can apply for specified adult childcare credits if all of these apply to you:

  • You're a grandparent, or another family member, caring for a family member under the age of 12. If you were caring for them but now aren't, or they are 12 or older, you may still be able to backdate your claim all the way back to 2011.

  • You were over 16 and under state pension age when you cared for the child in your family. The current state pension age is 66 for men and women, but it may be different for you depending on how old you are, so check the Government's state pension age calculator.

  • You live in the UK. For the purposes of specified adult childcare credits, this includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but EXCLUDES the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Step 3: Check the child's parent/guardian is registered to receive child benefit

There's no minimum number of hours you need to be looking after the child, but the parent must be registered for child benefit, even if they aren't actually receiving it.

That's crucial, because the child benefit is what entitles the parent to NI credits if they either aren't working, or are working but earning less than £123 a week.

If that parent then starts to earn enough through employment to get a NI credit, the credit they received from their child benefit is up for grabs and can be transferred to a family member who's helping to look after the child. 

To transfer the credit, follow step 4. The only exception is if you want to transfer the available credit to a co-habiting partner of the parent receiving child benefit, in which case you need to fill in a different form on the website.

There's one credit for each child benefit recipient – NOT each child

Grandparent childcare credits work by transferring the credit that the recipient of child benefit (usually a parent) would have received to the family member doing the childcare (usually a grandparent). So, even if you are caring for multiple children, there may only be one credit available.

For example, if two grandparents are looking after their son's two children, there's only one NI credit up for grabs, so the two grandparents will have to decide who gets it. Yet if the same two grandparents are also caring for their daughter's child, there would likely be two different child benefit recipients, so the grandparents could each take a credit.

Step 4: How to apply for childcare NI credits

These credits aren't given automatically  you must apply. 

If you are missing years on your national insurance record, and you have looked after a child under 12 since 2011, you'll need to fill out this application form to get the credits transferred from the child's parent or guardian.

The form will ask for the child's details, and those of the family member caring for them. Plus you'll need to give the dates of when you cared for the child and details of the parent who's registered for child benefit.

Both the child's parent (who is registered for child benefit) and the person applying for the credits will need to sign the form.

If you need help with your application, you can call the free national insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500. It's open between 8am and 8pm on Monday to Friday, and between 8am and 4pm on Saturdays.

You can backdate childcare NI credits to April 2011

You can apply for backdated childcare national insurance (NI) credits all the way back to April 2011. So, if you're already claiming your state pension and not getting the full amount, you could boost your entitlement by backdating your claim, provided it was since 2011 and you were under state pension age when you did the childcare.

It's also worth noting that if your usual childcare arrangements changed during the coronavirus pandemic, and you had to care for the child in a different way, for example by phone or video calls, you can still apply for NI credits for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 tax years.

You'll be able to apply for childcare NI credits for the 2023/24 tax year from October 2024.

Still have gaps in your NI record?

If you aren't eligible for grandparent childcare credits  or you are but claiming them hasn't maxed out your state pension  check if you can boost your entitlement by buying national insurance years.


  • How much does the child's parent need to earn to get NI credits from work?

    How much they need to earn depends on if they're employed or self-employed:

    • If they're employed, they need to earn over the lower earnings limit (LEL) in a single tax year to get a year of NI credits. For 2022/23 this was at least £6,396 a year from a single employer. Crucially, though, only weeks where you've earned at least £123 count towards this total. 

      If the child's parent is unsure whether they're earning enough to qualify for an NI credit through employment, they should check their NI record. Their record will clearly show complete/incomplete years and the breakdown between paid work and/or National Insurance credits. 

    • If the child's parent is self-employed, they need to have profits over the Small Profits Threshold in a single tax year to get a year of NI credits. For 2023/24 this was £6,725. If they do, they'll be credited with Class 2 National Insurance and so the credits earned via child benefit can be safely transferred. 

      It might be tricky to ask about their profits  so to save any awkward conversations, you can ask them to check their NI record. Their record will clearly show complete/incomplete years and the breakdown between paid work and/or National Insurance credits. 
  • I'm already getting the state pension – can my newly claimed credits be applied to past payments?

    Unfortunately not. If you're already claiming your state pension and then receive specified adult childcare credits, your state pension would increase from the point your application for NI credits is processed. In other words, it wouldn't be backdated to when you started claiming the state pension. So, it's essential to check if you're entitled to NI credits as soon as possible.

  • Can I claim backdated NI credits if the child I care for was NOT registered for child benefit?

    No. Specified adult childcare credits can only be received for periods when the child you were looking after was registered for child benefit.

    However, if the unregistered child is then registered  and you are still meeting the conditions for specified adult childcare credits  their child benefit claim can be backdated by three months, which in turn means your claim for NI childcare credits can be backdated by the same amount of time.

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