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)
Please note, 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 your situation changes, you will receive notice within six weeks or half a term.
During this time, your child will keep the additional hours. Eligibility will be checked again at the end of this period, and if still not eligible, you will no longer receive the additional hours.
I'm having problems with my online application - what can I do?
If you are having problems with your online application or re-confirming your details please contact the childcare service helpline on 0300 123 4097. The helpline will then check if you are eligible and provide you with a temporary code if you qualify. Your code will begin with 11 and will be available throughout the year.
I am serving in the Armed Forces, how do I apply?
If you are serving in the Armed Forces and are currently posted outside of England, you will get your code manually.
Please note this does not apply to other families working outside of England.
You may contact providers before a new term starts to ty and get a place for your child for when you return.
Depending on your return date, some places may not be taken up until mid-way through a term and you will get the standard code checks by providers / the Council, and you must have an eligible code with a pre-term start date.
If you have any questions or need to ask for a manual application because you are serving abroad, please contact the Childcare Service Helpline on 0300 123 4097.
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 complete your application or sign in to 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.