Currently, all 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for 15 hours of free early education or childcare per week, over 38 weeks of the year.
Some 3 and 4 year olds may also be entitled to an additional 15 hours of free childcare per week, over 38 weeks of the year. It is possible to stretch your entitlement by taking fewer hours over more weeks of the year.
To be eligible, you (and your partner if you have one), must either:
- each expect to earn at least £115 a week (with an income of less than £100,000 a year) or work more than 16 hours at the National Living Wage (unless you became self-employed less than 12 months ago), or each expect to earn at least £111 a week or work more than 16 hours at the National Minimum Wage (unless you became self-employed less than 12 months ago).
- each expect to earn at least £61.92 a week if you're under 18, £84.80 a week if you're aged 18-20 or £52.80 a week if you're an apprentice (either under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship).
You can use 30 hours free childcare if you're already getting Universal Credit or tax credits, and you can still apply for 30 hours free childcare if you or your partner:
- are taking paid time off work, such as maternity leave, paternity leave or sick leave.
- are temporarily away from England for a period of up to 6 months, such as if you're in the military (on duty).
You'll be able to apply for 30 hours free childcare, as well as Tax-Free Childcare, in a single online childcare service application. If you're eligible, you will have a childcare service account opened for you (you only need to complete one application for all your children).
Securing your 30 hours place
If you're eligible for 30 hours free childcare, you'll receive a 30 hours eligibility code, your unique 11-digit reference number. This code is important as you'll need it to claim your free childcare. You should take the code to your school or childcare provider along with your National Insurance number and your child's date of birth to secure your extended entitlement place. Your provider will validate the code with the local authority to confirm your eligibility. You and your provider will then be able to discuss when provision can begin.
If you have applied for 30 hours extended entitlement place, it is essential that you take your code to your chosen school by the 20th December in order for the school to validate your 30 hours eligibility code and to secure your place for January. For eligibility codes that are not validated before the end of term, your entitlement will not start until April 2018.
Parents wishing to access there extended entitlement with other childcare providers, will need to validate their eligibility code by the 31st December to secure your place for January.
Reconfirming your eligibility
Every three months, you'll need to reconfirm that you're still eligible for 30 hours extended entitlement. You'll be reminded to check you are still eligible 4 weeks before the deadline.
If you become ineligible you may still be able to access your extended entitlement for a short period, known as a 'grace period'. You can check what your 'grace period' arrangements are with your provider. If you're no longer eligible, you can still access the 15 hour universal early education entitlement for 3 and 4-year-olds.