30 hours free childcare for working families

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All three and four-year-old children can currently receive up to 15 hours free early education per week over 38 weeks of the year (570 hours per year). This entitlement can also be “stretched” at some childcare providers, which means that fewer hours can be taken over more weeks of the year, commonly offered as 11 hours per week each week of the year (universal entitlement). 

Additional hours

Three and four-year-olds of working parents in England may also be entitled to an additional 570 hours per year, meaning these families will be able to claim up to 1,140 hours of free early education per year. You may have heard this being talked about as “30 hours free childcare”.

30 hours free childcare leaflet

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Three and four-year-olds in eligible working families will get an additional 15 hours free childcare, equalling 30 hours free per week over 38 weeks of the year (term time) or approximately 22 hours per week each week of the year.

30 hours eligibility codes guidance

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Parents must apply through HMRC for this additional entitlement. You can do this by clicking the “apply now” button at the top of this page to go straight to the application.

Please note: All application queries must be directed to HMRC. Please call 0300 123 4097 to speak to HMRC’s Childcare Service helpline.

Parent/s can apply 16 weeks before their child turns three. If the parent is returning to work, they can apply 14 days before they start their job.

There are application deadlines in place for the additional hours. We strongly advise parents to apply well in advance of deadlines shown below as some applications can take 14 days to be resolved. If a code is not issued by HMRC before the start of a funding period, the child will have to wait until the following funding period before they can take up 30 hours free entitlement as set out below:

If a child turns three between: A code must be issued by HMRC before midnight on: If the parent wants the child to start 30 hours free childcare from:
1 April to 31 August 31 August 1 September
1 September to 31 December 31 December 1 January
1 January to 31 March 31 March 1 April

If the child is already three and accessing their universal entitlement, the same principle applies that 30 hours free childcare cannot begin until the funding period following successful application:

Application made and code issued by HMRC between: Earliest start date for 30 hours:
1 April to 31 August 1 September
1 September to 31 December 1 January
1 January to 31 March 1 April

Please note: Due to issues with the Childcare Service website, it has been agreed locally in Peterborough that for Autumn 2017, we will fund families who missed the application deadline of 31 August 2017 for the additional hours where they have applied and received a valid code from HMRC issued between 1 September 2017 and 22 September 2017 as long as the child meets the age criteria. Codes with a validity start date of 23 September will be able to take up a funded place in January 2018 (subject to age of the child and ongoing validity of the code).

Every three months, parents will be asked to reconfirm that they are still eligible. Therefore, if a parent applies very early, they may need to reconfirm that they are still eligible before they have taken up their place.

If a parent falls out of eligibility before the child has begun accessing their 30 hours free childcare, the grace period does not apply.

Validity start dates

The validity start date shown on the code issued by HMRC is the date the code was issued, not the date the child can start accessing 30 hours free childcare. This means that a number of families who have applied early will have a code for their two-year-old or three-year-old who does not yet meet the age criteria.

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Qualifying criteria 

In the same way as the universal entitlement for three and four-year-olds, the child must be the right age to receive 30 hours free childcare even if the code from HMRC shows an earlier date:

Children who turn three between:

Become eligible for their free entitlement from:

1 September to 31 December

1 January

1 January to 31 March

1 April

1 April to 31 August

1 September

To be eligible for 30 hours free childcare, both parents, or for single parent families, the sole parent must either:

  • Each expect to earn at least £120 a week or work more than 16 hours a week at the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (from April 2017, this is £112.80 per week for 21 to 24-year-olds and £120.00 per week for over 25-year-olds and £56 per week for apprentices in their first year).
  • 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).

Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (i.e. they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.

Both parents, or for single parent families, the sole parent must also:

  • Live in England
  • Expect to have an income of less than £100,000 each a year.

If one or both parents are unemployed, they must become employed within 14 days of applying.

There are some exceptions, and families will also be eligible if both parents are employed but one parent (or both parents) are:

  • temporarily away from the workplace on maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave;
  • temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay;
  • are temporarily away from England for a period of up to 6 months, such as if the parent/s are in the military (on duty);

Or if:

One parent is employed or self-employed and one parent gets one or more of the following benefits:

  • Contribution based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit or long-term Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • National Insurance credits because of incapacity or limited capacity for work
  • If the parent has been assessed as having limited capacity for work for Universal Credit purposes.

Parent/s are not eligible if:

  • They are in receipt of a childcare grant
  • They are a full time student/an intern
  • They are not entitled to receive public funds.

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