Currently, all children aged 3-4 years old are eligible for 15 hours per week free nursery education during term time.
This is not changing, however, many working parents could be entitled to 30 hours a week of free childcare. This is an additional 15 hours a week during term time.
Below are the answers to some common questions about the offer.
When does the additional free hours of childcare start?
This offer is available from Friday 1 September 2017.
Will my child be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare per week?
Your child will be eligible from the term time after their 3rd birthday until they start reception class, if they meet the following criteria:
- Both parents are working - or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family
- Each parent earns, on average, a weekly amount equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage
- Each parent earns less than £100,000 per year
- The family lives in England
Please note: Foster carers are not eligible for the 30 hours free childcare for the children that they foster.
However, if you are a foster carer, this does not affect your eligibility for your own children as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.
What if one parent in a couple isn't working?
Families where one parent does not work, or neither parent works, will not usually be eligible for the offer unless:
- both parents are employed but one (or both) is temporarily away from the workplace on:
- parental, maternity or paternity leave
- adoption leave
- statutory sick pay
- one parent works and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities (based on specific benefits received for caring)
- one parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated (based on receipt of specific benefits)
Will I be expected to pay a contribution for the additional childcare?
There will be no registration fee, administration fee or retainer fee charged to arrange the place, however, childcare providers will be able to charge for anything over and above the free entitlement, such as meals. This will vary between the individual providers and you will need to speak to your chosen provider about this.
There will be a cost for any hours above the 30 hours a week.
What if I lose my job?
As the offer is only available for working parents, if either parent is no longer in employment then entitlement to the additional hours will be removed. However, a 'grace period' will be put in place to allow parents to find a new job.
You should speak to your childcare provider as soon as your circumstances change to find out when your entitlement will come to an end.
Will all nurseries/childminders offer 30 hours of free childcare?
No. Not all nurseries and childminders will provide the offer, therefore you may not be able to access the additional free hours at the place of your choice.
Can I split the 30 hours childcare between more than one nursery or childminder?
Yes you can use a maximum of three childcare providers, however there are certain rules to this:
- No session can be longer than 10 hours
- No session can be shorter than 3 hours between 9am - 3.30pm
- Childcare cannot be taken before 7am or after 7pm
Can I use my entitlement outside of term time?
The offer is for 30 hours a week free childcare based on 38 weeks a year, generally to fall in line with the school term. This is equivalent to an additional 570 hours per year giving a total of 1140 hours.
Depending on your chosen provider, you may be able to spread this across the year and even take these hours at weekends. If you do this, you will receive fewer than 30 hours a week, but over a longer time. Please speak to your chosen childcare provider about whether this is available.
Can I move my child to a different provider within the year?
Yes, as long as there are spaces you will be able to move to a different provider within the year.
What if I can't get a space at my chosen nursery?
Childcare providers, including schools and nursery schools, will have an Admissions Policy which will clearly state how places will be allocated and the criteria they intend to use for selection.
If you are unable to secure a place at your first choice there will be sufficient places across the Borough.
If you need help finding other providers, you can contact the South Tyneside Families Information Service on 0800 783 4645.
How do I apply to receive 30 hours a week free childcare?
You will be able to check whether you are eligible by completing an online application form on GOV.UK.
You can also call HMRC to check your eligibility.
This service is not currently live.
If you are eligible you will receive a 'voucher code' that you can take to a childcare provider and arrange a placement. The childcare provider will work with the local authority to verify the voucher code.
What else do I need to do?
You must reconfirm your eligibility every three months or you may lose your entitlement. You can do this online by visiting HM Revenue & Customs.
HMRC will let you know when you need to do this and how to do it.