The Government is committed to give working parents of three and four-year-olds 30 hours of FREE childcare per week during term time.
All 3 and 4-year-olds are currently entitled to 15 hours of FREE childcare a week (this is also extended to the most disadvantaged 2-year-olds). However, all working parents* of 3 and 4-year-olds are now entitled to an additional 15 FREE hours of childcare - raising the entitlement to 30 hours during term time.
The additional 15 hours of FREE childcare is available for families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a sole parent family), and each parent earns a minimum of the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage, and earns less than £100,000 a year.
Am I eligible?
*Eligibility for this additional FREE entitlement will include households where:
Both parents are working, or
One parent is working (in a sole parent family) earning the equivalent of 16 hours a week minimum on national minimum or living wage including those receiving tax credits or Universal Credit
One/both parent(s) is on leave (parental, maternal etc)
One/both parent(s) on statutory sick
One parent is employed and the other parent has either substantial caring responsibilities and/or disability
Families where one parent is not in paid employment (or neither parent works) will usually not be eligible for these additional hours
Eligibility will be checked by HMRC and will be based on actual income earned
All 3 and 4-year-olds (and the most disadvantaged 2-year-olds) will remain entitled to 15 hours of FREE early education per week during term time, regardless of the employment status of their parents
You do not need to actually work 16 hours per week, but your earnings must equal at least 16 hours work at minimum wage / national living wage. This equates to a minimum income requirement for a parent/carer over the age of 25 of £115.20 a week, or for 21-24 year olds of £107.20 a week.
A parent/carer will be eligible if they expect (on average) to earn this amount over the coming three months
For example, for a parent/carer who is on a zero-hours contract, they will qualify if on average they work two weeks out of every three, and when they are working they get 25 hours of work at the minimum wage.
'Parent' means a person who has parental responsibility for the child. In cases where a parent has remarried or is living with a partner, the step-parent or partner must also meet the earning threshold.
Foster carers are only eligible for the extended entitlement for their own children (if they meet the criteria); they are not eligible for children that they foster.
Flexibility - Taking up the extended entitlement
If you are eligible for the extended entitlement, you can take up to 1140 hours free childcare across the year. You do not have to take the full amount. This can be taken term time only or 'stretched' across the year, 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)
Not all providers may be able to offer the stretched offer, the full 30 hours per week or the particular pattern of provision that you need however, you can split your entitlement across more than one provider.
Depending on the provision you choose, you will be able to access your free childcare:
between 6am - 8pm
up to a maximum of 10 free hours per day, 30 hours per week
across a maximum of three providers, across a maximum of two sites per day
If you take more than 30 hours per week (or the equivalent of 1140 hours per year), there will be a charge from the provider for the additional hours. Parents/Carers will be required to check with your provider for details of these and any other additional charges such as for meals, snacks or additional services.
Where can I access my child's place?
In South Tyneside, free entitlement places will be available in:
schools and academies with a nursery class
maintained nursery schools
When can my child start?
Children can start from the term following their third birthday until they start full-time education, providing they stay eligible. This is usually in the September following their fourth birthday. Contact the provider for their term start dates and to arrange settling-in sessions.
I live outside of South Tyneside - can my child attend a South Tyneside provision?
Any child can access their free entitlement in a South Tyneside provision. You do not need to be a South Tyneside resident.
HMRC currently cannot check your eligibility for the extended entitlement. Based on the criteria listed above, you can give the provider an indication of whether you are likely to be eligible when applying for a place.
Some providers are waiting for further information before deciding to offer 30-hour places, so may not yet be in a position to guarantee you a place.
My child has special educational needs - will this affect my child's entitlement?
All families should have access to high quality, flexible childcare. The Government has consulted on changes to the funding arrangements.
We are waiting for guidelines designed to make sure that providers have the resources to support the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Some childminders will also be offering 30 hours of free childcare. For more information about which childminders, please contact our Family Information Service (FIS) on 0800 7834645 or email email@example.com.
Find out more
For more information on eligibility, entitlement and how to apply, see FAQs for parents.
For further information, please contact Family Information Service (FIS) on 0800 7834645 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Childcare service compensation
If you have been unable to access Tax-free childcare through your childcare account for technical reasons, you may be able to claim compensation and get the government top-up as a one-off payment.
You may also be eligible for a refund for any costs caused by the service not working as it should, mistakes or reasonable delays.