Parent's guide to 30 hours of free childcare
From September 2017 the government will be increasing the free hours from 15 to 30 a week for working families who meet the eligibility criteria. This means eligible children will receive up to 1140 hours of free childcare a year.
Eligibility for 30 hours of free childcare
To qualify for the full 30 hours of free childcare, each parent (or the sole parent in a single parent family) will need to earn on average, the equivalent of 16 hours on the national minimum wage per week and no more than £100,000 per year.
A family with an annual household income of £199,999 would be eligible if each parent earns just under £100,000. Self-employed parents and parents on zero-hours contracts will be eligible if they meet the average earnings threshold.
There are exceptions if both parents usually work but:
- one or both parents are away from work on statutory sick pay
- one or both parents are on parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
In addition, parents are eligible if one parent is employed, but the other:
- has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits for caring
- is disabled or incapacitated based on specific benefits.
Parents who works less than 16 hours a week
Eligibility is based on income earned, not hours worked. If a parent works for less than 16 hours, but in that time, earns more than the equivalent of 16 hours per week at national living wage (or minimum wage for under 25s), they will still be eligible.
All 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds will remain entitled to 15 hours of early education per week during term time, regardless of the employment status of their parent(s).
Check if you are eligible
Use the Childcare Choices website to check if you are eligible for 30 hours of free childcare.
This sets out all current and upcoming childcare offers and support available to parents, including:
- Tax-Free Childcare scheme
- 15 and 30 free hours entitlement
- tax credits
- universal credit
- childcare vouchers.
To complete the application, you will need to provide details such as your name, address and national insurance number, as well as if you expect to meet the income requirements over the next 3 months and if you are in receipt of any benefits.
If you live with a partner, you will need to provide the same information for them. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will decide whether your child is eligible for the 30 hours (as well as Tax-Free Childcare).
If you are eligible, you will be given an 11-digit code that you will need to give to your childcare provider along with your national insurance number and your child’s birth certificate.
They will check the code is valid using the government’s eligibility checking system. If it is, they will be able to book your child’s place – but bear in mind that providers don’t have to take part in the 30 hour offer, so you are advised to speak to your childcare provider about what they are able to offer.
HMRC is responsible for determining who is eligible for the 30 hour offer. Contact HMRC if you have queries about eligibility checking - call 0300 123 4097.
If you provide false information about eligibility you can be fined between £300 and £3000.
Finding your 30 hours code
After you have successfully applied online you need to log into your childcare service account to get your 11 digit code.
If you are having problems follow this step-by-step guide to finding your 30 hours code in your childcare service account (PDF, 198.8 KB).
Reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months
You will need to reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months and will get a reminder text message or email from the government before the deadline. If you give false information about your eligibility, you could be fined up to £3000.
Change in circumstances
If your circumstances change and you are no longer eligible part way through the year you will receive a ‘grace period’ – this means you will be able to keep the childcare place for a defined period.
Choose a childcare provider
Not all providers will take part in the 30 hours of free childcare offer, so please speak to your childcare provider about what they are able to offer.
Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities(SEND)
There is support available for pre-school children with special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities, and their families. You may have heard this called the local offer, and includes education, health and social care support for children, including those who do not have education, health and care plans.
Additional costs you might have to pay for
Government funding is intended to deliver 15 or 30 hours a week of free, high quality, flexible childcare. It is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables, additional childcare hours or any additional services offered by the childcare settings. Childcare providers may charge for meals and snacks as part of the free entitlement place and may also charge for consumables such as nappies and sun cream and for services such as trips. The provider cannot make these charges a condition of accessing the free place.
If you need any further information you can:
- speak with your childcare provider
- contact HMRC for queries about eligibility checking - call 0300 123 4097
- contact us
- Call 03000 41 23 23
- Email email@example.com