30 Hours Free Childcare
Early Years Extended Entitlement for 3 and 4 Year Olds (30 Hours)
Free 30 hours extended entitlement for working parents
All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to access up to 15 hours a week of universal free part-time early years education at an approved childcare provider (Day Nurseries, Pre-Schools, Independent School Nurseries or Childminders). The entitlement starts the term after your child’s third birthday.
Children of working parents/carers may be eligible to receive an additional 15 hours a week or 570 hours per year, meaning that some families will be able to claim 1140 hours of free childcare per year or 30 hours per term-time week, for each of their 3 or 4 year-olds. These hours can be taken ‘term time only’ or ‘stretched’ across the year, depending on the opening hours of the childcare provider.
Who is eligible for 30 hours/Eligibility Criteria?
Your eligibility depends on:
- if you are working
- your income (and your partner’s income, if you have one)
- your child’s age and circumstances
- your immigration status
You can get 30 hours free childcare at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, tax credits, childcare vouchers or Tax -Free Childcare.
If you are working: You can usually get 30 hours free childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:
- in work
- on sick leave or annual leave
- on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave
If you’re on adoption leave for a child aged 3 to 4 years old, you must return to work within 31 days of the date you first apply for 30 hours free childcare for that child.
If you are not currently working:
- You may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.
- You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.
- You will need to expect to earn a certain amount over the next 3 months. This is at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average.
- If you have a partner, they’ll need to expect to earn at least this much too.
- If you’re self-employed and do not expect to make enough profit in the next 3 months, you can use an average of how much you expect to make over the current tax year.
- This earnings limit does not apply if you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago.
- If you or your partner have an expected ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000 in the current tax year you will not be eligible. This includes any bonuses you expect to get.
- Your adjusted net income is your total taxable income before any personal allowances and minus things like Gift Aid.
- Will not be eligible if they do not usually live with you.
- If you foster your child, you cannot use the online application to get 30 hours free childcare. Speak to your social worker and your local authority if you want to apply.
Your immigration status: To be eligible for 30 hours free childcare, you (or your partner if you have one) must have a National Insurance number and at least one of the following:
- British or Irish citizenship
- Settled or pre-settled status
- Permission to access public funds - your UK residence card will tell you if you cannot do this
When should I apply?
You should apply during the term in which your child turns three, in order for your child to access the extended entitlement from the following term.
*Please note: If you apply after the term starts you will have to wait until the following term to take up the extended entitlement.
How do I check my eligibility and apply?
To check your eligibility and apply for the extended entitlement please visit:
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 eligibility code to take directly to your chosen participating childcare provider along with your National Insurance Number and proof of your child’s date of birth.
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 3 years old and a start date will be agreed with the provider.
Please Note A 30 hours place cannot be started if your
Validity Date has expired and you have entered your Grace Period - please ensure that you have reconfirmed before your child is due to start.
Flexibility - Taking up the extended entitlement and how it can be used
If you are eligible for the extended entitlement, you can take up to 1140 free childcare hours across the year. This can be taken ‘term time only’ or ‘stretched’ across the year, examples as follows:
- Up to 30 hours per week across 38 weeks per year or (term time offer)
- Up to 23.75 hours per week across 48 weeks per year or (stretched offer)
- Up to 22.25 hours per week across 51 weeks of the year (stretched offer).
Flexibility options will need to be discussed with your chosen childcare provider, as not all providers may be able to deliver the stretched offer, the full 30 hours per week, or the particular pattern of provision that you require. However, you can split your entitlement across more than one provider (between up to three separate childcare providers but no more than two locations in any single day).
If you will be using more than one childcare provider, you must nominate the one in which you wish to access the additional hours. You must make all providers aware if you are splitting the funding between them.
It is proposed that the free hours will be delivered as flexibly as possible and there is no requirement for them to be taken on a particular day of the week.
However, you won’t be able to:
- claim any time before 6am or after 8pm
- claim more than 10 hours a day
- claim more than 30 hours a week
- claim more than 1140 hours per year
What happens if a parent loses eligibility and no longer meets the criteria?
You will be prompted by the HMRC every three months to reconfirm that the details you entered on your application are still accurate and that you are still eligible. You will be prompted, via text message and/or email, four weeks before your reconfirmation deadline and again two weeks before the deadline if you still haven’t reconfirmed.
If you miss the reconfirmation deadline, you will receive a message telling you that your eligibility has lapsed. Although you are no longer eligible, you may be able to retain your childcare place for a short period; this is known as a grace period. See table below
Grace period dates
Validity end date:
Grace Period End date:
1 Jan – 10 February
11 Feb – 31 March
1 April – 26 May
27 May – 31 August
1 September – 21 October
22 October – 31 December
If your circumstances change during the grace period you can reapply again and continue to receive the extra hours.
You will still be able to receive the universal 15 hours of free childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds even if you are no longer eligible for the extended entitlement.
If you do not check your eligibility when required and continue to receive funding which you are no longer entitled to, you will be asked by the HMRC to pay back any childcare funding paid to you.
When will the free entitlement for my child finish?
- When your child reaches compulsory school age
- When your child attends a reception place in a maintained school or academy
- You cannot change your childcare provider part way through a term - the free entitlement will not automatically transfer with your child to your new provider (talk to your provider before you make a decision.
- The provider can charge for additional services (e.g. meals, trips, additional lessons/classes outside of the Early Years Foundation Stage). It is recommended that you discuss any additional fees with your chosen childcare provider prior to taking up the place.
- Your childcare provider should set out their invoices clearly, so you can easily recognise and understand your free entitlement and any additional fees relating to extra services and hours. Please check any contract/ agreement before signing it.
Free Early Education does not affect benefits received. However, the funding does mean that your childcare costs will be lower, so if you are claiming the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit, you should only claim for the childcare fees you are paying for, to prevent an overpayment. For further Information on tax credits please contact: HMRC – 0345 300
3900 or visit: www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits
Further Information/Useful links: