Parents' guide to 30 hours of free childcare

Eligible working families with 3 and 4 year olds can receive up to 30-hours of free childcare each week. This is an extra 15-hours of free childcare in addition to the universal entitlement and is known as extended entitlement.

To qualify for a 30 hours of free childcare, each parent (or sole parent if in a single family) will need to earn:

  • on average, the equivalent of 16 hours a week national minimum or living wage and
  • no more than £100,000 a year.

A family with an annual household income of £199,999 would be eligible if each parent earns just under £100,000.

If you are self employed or on a zero-hour contract, you will be eligible if you meet the average earnings threshold.

You can still be eligible if you 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, you 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 work fewer than 16 hours a week

Eligibility is based on income earned, not hours worked. If a parent works for fewer 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.

From 1 September some children in foster care may be eligible for 30 hours however the criteria and the application process are different.

HMRC is responsible for determining who is eligible for the Working Parent Entitlement. Contact HMRC if you have queries about checking your eligibility or if you're experiencing ongoing technical issues by phone on 0300 123 40 97.

If you provide false information about eligibility you can be fined between £300 and £3000.

You can apply for both the 30-hours and Tax-Free Childcare using a single application.

You must apply for and receive your new 30 hour eligibility code the before the start of the academic period. You need to apply for and have received your code by:

  • 31 August to start claiming the entitlement in September
  • 31 December to start claiming the entitlement in January
  • 31 March to start claiming the entitlement in April.

If you apply after these dates you will be issued with a start date to access 30 hours the following term. Check the exact dates of the holidays and terms.

To complete the application, you will need to provide details including:

  • your name
  • your address
  • your national insurance number
  • details if you expect to meet the income requirements over the next 3 month
  • details of any benefits you may receive.

If you live with a partner, you will need to provide the same information for them. 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.

Your code can be found by logging into your childcare service account.

Your childcare provider will check the code is valid using the government’s eligibility checking system. Once happy they will book your child's place. They do not need to take part in the 30 hour offer, please talk to them before applying.


You must reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. This is from the date you applied to get the extra hours (or Tax-Free Childcare). Your code should also be reconfirmed even if your child has not started their 30-hour place.

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).

How to reconfirm

If you applied online you must reconfirm your eligibility up to 4 weeks before your reconfirmation date by logging into your childcare service account and finding your reconfirmation date in the 'secure message' section. You should make a note of this date in case you don't receive the reminder from HMRC.

You will receive a reminder from HMRC by text or email 4 weeks, and then 2 weeks before the deadline to log into your Childcare Service account. Make sure you keep them informed of any changes to your contact details.

The reconfirmation process may be different for some parents and carers. If your:

  • circumstances haven't changed you will need to tick a box to confirm this - you will not receive a new code as your existing one will get extended for 3 months more
  • circumstances have changed you must amend and resubmit your details - if your eligibility gets reconfirmed, your existing code will be extended for 3 months more
  • original application was made over the phone you need to call HMRC to reconfirm your eligibility on 0300 123 4097.
  • code is temporary (starting with 11). You must complete a new application through your childcare service account to get a permanent code. Your temporary code cannot be renewed and you will fall out of eligibility if you do not complete a new application for a permanent code.

If you are no longer eligible

If you or your partner (if applicable) no longer meet the criteria, we will let your childcare provider know. Unfortunately, you will no longer be eligible to claim the extra hours.

There will be a grace period until the start of the next funded period to enable you to seek employment. If your circumstances change during the grace period, you can apply again and continue to receive the extra hours.

You will still be able to receive 15 hours of Free Early Education and Childcare for 3 and 4 year olds even if you are no longer eligible for the extended entitlement.

Some 3 to 4 year old children in foster care may be able to receive 30 hours free childcare if:

  • accessing the extending hours is consistent with the child's care plan
  • there is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent
  • there are 2 foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent.

Foster carers will need to talk to their social worker. The worker must complete a separate form before an eligibility check. This is not done through HMRC.

Eligible foster carers must also reconfirm their details every 3 months. This is completed through a Reconfirmation Statement. Speak to your social worker to complete to start this process.

If you are fostering a child from outside of Kent, you should contact the supervising social worker from that authority. You can apply through them for the funding.

Find a childcare provider

If the childcare provider does not offer 30-hours free childcare, you may want to consider another provider.

Split your hours

You can also split your hours over more than 1 provider, but at no more than 2 sites in a day. Therefore you could consider finding 2 providers willing to work in partnership to meet your needs, one of which must be signed up to deliver 30-hours.

What the provider needs from you

If you have been offered a place you will need to provide:

  • your child's birth certificate
  • the National Insurance number of either parent who made the application to the chosen childcare provider
  • your 30-hour eligibility code (the 11 digit number you will have been given if you are eligible).

They will verify and validate the code and:

  • ask you to complete a parental declaration
  • agree a start date for your child to begin accessing 30-hours free childcare per week.

You can:

  • use your 30 hours between 6am and 8pm for a maximum of 10 hours a day
  • split your 30 hours between providers, for example a nursery and a childminder, but at no more than 2 sites each day.

Not all providers can be flexible in how they offer the free hours. So, check with your chosen provider to make sure their offer fits your needs.

Stretch your funding

Some providers may offer a stretched pattern of hours. This means, you get fewer hours each week, but for more weeks of the year. You will need to discuss this with your chosen provider.

If a provider is not open for the full 38 weeks per year, you cannot claim more than 15 (universal) or 30 (extended) hours each week over fewer weeks of the year. If you choose a provider that is open for fewer than 38 weeks of the year you will not be able to receive your full entitlement.

The 38 weeks or more of free hours can be used in line with the following academic periods. Your childcare provider will tell you how many weeks you can use during each period.

  • Autumn: 1 September to 31 December
  • Spring: 1 January to last day of the spring holiday
  • Summer: First day of the summer term to 31 August.

Headcount week

Your child must attend the Kent headcount week to claim both the universal and extended element of the entitlement for the term.

Your child's attendance during headcount week determines the funded hours. You cannot increase the hours until the next term. To find out when the headcount week is, talk to your childcare provider.

Your child cannot start a new childcare place at a provider during a grace period. This includes when a parent:

  • has fallen into their grace period before your child has started their childcare place and,
  • seeks to move your child to a different provider, when you have already fallen into their grace period.

Transfer funding during headcount week

Providers are under no obligation to transfer funding. If you switch providers after the headcount week, you might need to pay the new one until the start of the next term.

There is an appeals process in place for exceptional circumstances such as a move, due to adoption or domestic violence.

Help is available for children with SEND, and their families. This is known as the local offer.

This includes education, health and social care support for children, including those who do not have education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Visit our SEND information hub.

If you need further information, please contact our Kent Children and Families Information Service.

See information on making an appeal or complaint about free early education and childcare.