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30 Hours Free Childcare Entitlement

From September 2017 the free early education entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds across the England will be increased from 15 hours to 30 hours per week for working families. This is to support parents who are working, who wish to work or intend to increase their working hours to improve their family's economic well-being. The entitlement could be offered term-time or stretched across the year to suit families' needs.


  • You and any partner must expect to earn at least £120 per week (equivalent to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage)
  • If you, or your partner are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave you could still be eligible
  • If you are unable to work because you are disabled or have caring responsibilities, you could still be eligible
  • If you or your partner expect to earn £100,000 or more you would not be eligible to receive the funding.

What is a free early years place?

All three and four year old children are entitled to a free part-time early years place at a nursery or pre-school before they reach school age. This entitlement not only helps towards the cost of childcare but it also enables children to start to learn and play with other children in a fun, safe and structured environment.

When does my child qualify?

Children become eligible to claim a free early years place from the start of the term following their third birthday.

A child born between 1 January and 31 March is entitled to claim from the start of the summer term

A child born between 1 April and 31 August is entitled to claim from the start of the autumn term

A child born between 1 September and 31 December is entitled to claim from the start of the spring term

Terms generally cover the following months

Summer - April - July, Autumn - September - December, Spring - January - March

How do I apply for the 30hours free childcare?

To apply for Tax-Free Childcare or 3 and 4 year old extended free entitlement please folow this link It's one single application that will check your eligibility for both. 

Once you have gone through the online eligibility checking system, (HMRC) for the 3 and 4 year old extended free entitlement, you will be given an Eligibility Reference Number. You will need to give this to your chosen childcare provider.

The Childcare Service System has now gone live for parents with children up to the age of 4. This means that parents wishing to access the 30 hours free childcare entitlement from September 2017, will now be able to apply using the system. 

If you experience any problems with completing the application for the extended entitlement or have a query, please contact - The Childrens Service - Tel: 0300 123 4097

Does everyone qualify?

This is based on income earned, not hours worked.

30 hours childcare extended entitlement eligibility to find out more

The upper limit that each parent can earn is £100,000.

A parent will not receive a ‘yes’ decision where:

Either or both parents have an income of more than £100,000

You're not entitled to receive public funds

Where can I claim my 30 hours?

All OFSTED registered approved childcare providers who currently offer grant funded early education can choose to offer the 30 hours free childcare. This includes childminders, nursery schools/classes, day nurseries and pre-schools.

It is the childcare providers' choice if they offer the 30 hours. Parents should speak to their current provider or any provider they are thinking of using. Details of providers can be found on

Will all providers in the City of London offer the 30hours?

It will be optional for approved childcare providers in the City of London, and elsewhere, to offer the 30 free hours.

Childcare providers who opt not to provide the 30 free hours may still offer the universal 15 free hours for 3 & 4-year-olds.

Do I have to use all the 30hours each week?

No, you can use anything from 15-30 hours - it is up to you.

However, not all childcare providers may be able to offer the exact amount of free hours that you require. Providers can claim the 30 free hours entitlement from their Local Authority using the following criteria (as of March 2017):

  • No sessions to be longer than 10 hour
  • No minimum session lenght (subject to the requirements of registration on the Ofsted Early Years Register)
  • Hours - not before 6.00am or after 8.00pm
  • A maximum of two sites in a single day

If your childcare provider cannot offer the exact amount of free hours that you require, you could split your 30 free hours across more than one childcare provider.

Are there additional costs?

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 settings may therefore charge for meals and snacks as part of the free entitlement place and they may also charge for consumables such as nappies and sun cream and for services such as trips. 

Can self-employed parents apply?

As long as you earn at least the minimum amount, but less than the upper threshold of £100,000 each, your child will be eligible for the 30 hours free childcare.

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.

What happens if I am on a zero contract?

Providing you work on average two weeks out of every three and when you are working you earn the equivalent of at least 25 hours at the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (depending on your age), your child will be eligible for the 30 hours free childcare.

What happens if our circumstances change?

If either parent starts earning less than the minimum income threshold or stops working altogether, you will be given a short 'grace period' (this is set by the Government) to give you time to find a new job and start earning at least the minimum amount again. 

If you do not find a new job within the grace period, your child will stop being eligible to receive the 30 hours free childcare.

The grace period is set so:

A child who becomes ineligible during the first half of a funding blockshould be funded until the end of that funding block (31 March, 31 August, 31 December) or for as long as they remain under Compulsory School Age, whichever is the shorter. A child who becomes ineligible in the latter half of the funding block (up to the last day of the funding block) should be funded until the end of the following funding block or for as long as they remain under Compulsory School Age, whichever is the shorter.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

If you would like further information then contact the Family and Young People'sInformation Service on  0207 332 1002 or email

Who can help if I have problems with the online form?

If you are having problems completing the on line application form, or have any queries in relation to the application process, please contact the Childcare Service Helpline - 0300 123 4097

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