30 hour childcare scheme

Funded childcare for working parents of three and four year olds.

All three and four year olds are entitled to up to 15 hours of funded early education a week for up to 38 weeks a year ( 570 hours a year). This is known as the ‘universal entitlement’.

The government doubled this entitlement to 30 hours a week x 38 weeks of the year (1,140 hours a year) to support working parents with childcare costs.

The entitlement can be 'stretched' less hours, more weeks dependent upon your childcare providers availability.

Who is eligible?

Parents of three and four year olds will need to meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for 30 hours free childcare:

  • They earn or expect to earn the equivalent to National Minimum or Living wage over the coming three months
  • This equates to £120 a week (or c. £6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112 to £180 a week (or c. £5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old.
  • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on zero hours contract.
  • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work.
  • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work.
  • Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (i.e. they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.
  • If a non-EEA national, the parent must have recourse to public funds.

Who will not qualify?

A parent will not meet the criteria when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000
  • Either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control (and has no recourse to public funds)

How do I apply?

You must apply for the extended entitlement hours through the Childcare Choices website.  

You will need:

  • Your National Insurance Number, and your partner’s National Insurance Number (if applicable)
  • Child’s name and date of birth

If you are eligible, you will receive an 11 digit code to take directly to a participating childcare provider. 

They will then gain your written permission to verify the code with the Local Authority. 

Once verified, a place can be confirmed for the funding period after your child becomes three years old.

When can I start using my extended entitlement hours?

If you are eligible for this funding it will begin the term after your child’s third birthday.

Please note: if you become eligible after the start of a funding period, you must wait until the following period to access your extended entitlement place.

The funding periods are:

  • Autumn - 1 September to 31 December
  • Spring - 1 January to 31 March
  • Summer - 1 April to 31 August

When would my extended entitlement hours stop?

You will be prompted by text, and/or email every 3 months to reconfirm your eligibility details. If you do not reconfirm, or your circumstances change, you will only be able to access the extended entitlement hours for a short time known as a ‘Grace Period’.

Date parent receives ineligible decision on
LA audit date Grace period end date
Between 1 January and 10 February 11 February 31 March
Between 11 February and 31 March 1 April  31 August
Between 1 April and 26 May 27 May 31 August
Between 27 May and 31 August 1 September 31 December
Between 1 September and 21 October 22 October 31 December
Between 22 October and 31 December 1 January 31 March

If the grace period has expired and you have not met the eligibility criteria again, you would only be able to access the universal entitlement (570 hours per year). 

Extended entitlement hours will also stop

  • When your child reaches compulsory school age
  • When your child attends a reception place in a maintained school or academy 

Free childcare funding for three/four year olds

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