30 Hours of Free Childcare

Latest News

  • The Provider Portal is now available for you to check parent's 11 digit eligibility codes, please refer to page 35 of the Provider Portal guidance notes for further information.  The previous interim system for checking codes is no longer available. 
  • Parents can now access 30 hours free childcare by completing an eligibility check through the childcare choices website.  Please continue to encourage parents to check their eligibility early to ensure they can take up the hours when they need them.     
  • Information for parents has been updated on our parent pages.  Please can you refer parents to this valuable source of information regarding eligibility and how and when to apply. 
  • The HMRC have asked that you share their information with any parents who are having difficulty finding their code so they do not need to contact the call centre.


30 Hours Free Childcare


From September 2017 the Government is doubling the amount of free childcare for eligible working parents of three and four year olds from 15 hours per week to 30 hours per week.
The current free entitlement for all 3 and 4 years olds will continue to be 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year (i.e. 570 hours). The 30 hours free childcare is an extension of the current free hours and provides an additional 15 hours of free childcare for children where parents are eligible.
By offering working parents the additional free childcare the government aims to give parents real choice about how they balance raising children with their working lives. The 30 hours free childcare also aims to support those parents who wish to work, or to work more hours, to be able to do so.

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Eligibility Criteria

The Government has published the eligibility criteria that families will need to meet in order to be able to access the extended entitlement to 30 hours free childcare.  The eligibility criteria states that;
  • Both parents need to be working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family);
  • Each parent has a weekly minimum income equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage or living wage;
  • Neither parent has an income of more than £100,000 per year ;
  • Parents will only be able to apply for the additional hours if they are resident in the UK, as in the case for Tax Free Childcare.

Families where one parent does not work (or neither parent works) will usually not be eligible for the additional hours.  However, the draft criteria also states that the additional entitlement should be available in the following circumstances;

  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity leave;
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on adoption leave;
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents are temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay;
  • One parent is employed 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.
For further information on eligibility please click here.

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National Minimum Wage from April 2017

  25 and Over 21 to 24 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice
Hourly Rate £7.50 £7.05 £5.60 £4.05 £3.50


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How will parents check to see if they are eligible

Parents can apply through the Childcare Choices website. If they are eligible they'll get an 11 digit eligibility code to give to you. You will need to validate this code using one of the two interim methods available to help you validate codes:

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How parents who've applied for 30 hours already can access their account

Frequently Asked Questions

The Department for Education has produced 3 frequently asked questions information documents about 30 hours free childcare and about the use of the ECS (Eligibility Checking System) for 30 hours free childcare.  Please see the documents below:

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How much will the hourly rate be for the 30 hours free childcare?

The Government has published its proposals in relation to the Early Years National Funding Formula and the requirements to have a universal base rate across all sectors of childcare by 2019/20.  A copy of the consultation document can be viewed here and the response can be seen here.   
The proposals for 2017/18 that have been agreed through the Schools Forum aim to meet the Education Funding Agency Guidance, commence the transition to the universal base rate, utilise appropriately the supplementary maintained nursery school funding and provide a degree of stability for all providers.
The table below outlines the rates that have been agreed for 2017-2018. These rates will apply to both the universal 15 hours free childcare and the extended 30 hours free childcare. 
2 Year Olds Nursery Schools Nursery Classes PVI Childminders
Base Rate £5.00 £5.00 £5.00 £5.00
3&4 Year Olds Nursery Schools Nursery Classes PVI Childminders
Funding Rate £4.09 £4.09 £4.09 £4.09
Plus transition   £0.17   £0.40
Base Rate £4.09 £4.26 £4.09 £4.49
The Pre-School Alliance have produced a guide for childcare settings on the changes to early years funding and delivery. The guide provides an update on changes to the early years funding system, as well as an overview of the general principles around the delivery of the free entitlement. You can view the guide in PDF format here.
It has also been agreed to retain the current IDACI based deprivation supplement at the 2016/17 level, and retain the current rurality supplement, using the existing methodology, at the 2016/17 level.
In addition the Government have also announced that they will introduce a Disability Access Fund (DAF), which will provide £615 per year for every eligible child in 2017-2018. Three and four year olds will be eligible for the DAF if they meet the following criteria:
  • The child is in receipt of child disability living allowance and;
  • The child receives free early education.
We will provide more information about how childcare providers can claim the DAF once systems and processes have been developed and agreed.

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Supporting Flexibility

Settings and parents will have increased flexibility around how they can offer/access the 30 hours offer. Following consultation the government has agreed the following changes to support parent's access 30 hours;
  • Extended the hours over which funded provision can be accessed to 6am-8pm (please note settings will offer different session times within these times
  • Removed the minimum session length for funded places so parents can access free hours more flexibility where settings are able to support this.
  • Parents will be able to access up to two sites per day to claim their funded hours
More information will be provided when this is available, in the mean time we would recommend that the provider attempts to identify families who may be eligible.

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Government Consultation on 30 Hours Free Childcare

In April 2016 the Government undertook a consultation exercise in relation to the implementation of the 30 hours free childcare. They have now published their response to this consultation including how they intent to respond to the issues raised.
A link to the full consultation document is available here and you can see the full response document hereWe have also produced a summary document that highlights the key findings of the consultation, it is available for you to view by clicking here.

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Tax Free Childcare

Tax Free Childcare is a new Government scheme to help working parents with the cost of childcare.
Parents will be able to open an online account from which they can pay their registered childcare provider directly. For every £8 a parent pays in, the Government will pay in an extra £2. Parents can receive up to £2,000 per child, per year, towards their childcare costs or £4,000 for children with a disability.
Parents could be eligible if they are in work, and each expecting to earn at least £115 a week. Each parent must not have income over £100,000 per year. The scheme will be available for children up to 12 years old, or 17 years for children with a disability. All eligible parents will be able to join the scheme by the end of 2017.
Childcare Providers
Childcare providers need to sign up with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to receive payments from parents.  You can only sign up for Tax Free Childcare if you're a childcare provider registered or approved by a UK regulatory authority i.e. Ofsted.  You should receive a letter from the Government asking you to sign up online for Tax Free Childcare and it will contain your unique ID which you will need to start the online process.  If you have not received or lost this letter, you will need to be sent a new one.  Please contact HMRC on 0300 123 4097 
Each child will have a Tax Free Childcare reference number so you will be able to identify which payments cover which child.
The Government top-up will be added into the parent's online account on the same day, and the total amount will be available to pay for childcare.  The accounts will use the BACs system, so payment should only take two to three working days to arrive in your bank account.  When you receive a payment from a parent . it will include both their payment and the Government contribution.
While parents cannot use Tax Free Childcare at the same time as childcare vouchers, childcare providers who are signed up to Tax Free Childcare can receive payments from both schemes.
Please be aware this page will be updated as more information from the Government is made available

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