Up to 30 free hours childcare for working parents

Working parents of 3 and 4 year olds in England may be entitled to up to 30 hours of childcare, for 38 weeks of the year (or fewer hours over more weeks). This is an additional 15 hours of childcare on top of the 15 hours universal entitlement for all 3 and 4 year olds in England.


Step by step guide on GOV.UK

Register with Childcare Choices to apply

After your application:

  • if you’re eligible, you will be given an 11 digit eligibility code which you must take to your chosen childcare provider
  • you can only claim at the start of each new term
  • you must reconfirm your eligibility every three months after applying – HMRC should email you four weeks before the deadline to log on to your childcare service account to do this.

Search for registered childcare providers

The 30 hours childcare will be available from the term after your child has turned 3 years of age. However, you must apply the term before. We recommend that you apply in good time, so that you receive your code the term before your child becomes eligible. You can apply up to 16 weeks before your child turns three.

Who can apply:

  • a parent must be the parent who has parental responsibility for a child or cares for a child
  • both parents are working (or the sole parent is a lone parent family)
  • foster carers may claim for their fostered children (PDF, 544KB)
  • if a parent has remarried or is living with a partner, the step parent or partner must also be working for less than £100,000 per year
  • working includes those parents that are self-employed or on zero contracted hours, who also meet the above criteria
  • families that are employed, where one parent does not work (or neither parents work temporarily) due to parental leave or maternity leave and meet the criteria, are eligible
  • families where both parents work where one or both parents are away from work temporarily on adoption leave and meet the criteria, are eligible
  • families where both parents work, where one or both parents are away from work temporarily on sick leave and meet the criteria, are eligible
  • families where one parent work, and one parent is disabled or not able to work due to their disability, and receive specific benefits and meets the criteria, are eligible
  • families where one parent is working and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring, and meet the criteria, are eligible
  • the person applying for funding (could be a partner) must be a resident in the UK and have recourse to public funds

You can only take up 30 hours at an approved provider, this means they need to be a school, pre-school, day nursery or with a childminder who are registered by Ofsted. Speak to your provider about whether they offer 30 hours and any additional charges that may apply or contact Family Information Service for further information about accessing the right childcare for you.

Points to note:

  • you can take up your 30 hours between 6am-8pm, but no session can be more than 10 hours. 
  • you don’t have to use all 30 hours, just those that meet your needs. 
  • providers have a choice whether to offer the hours, some may not offer the full 30 hours. 
  • you can split your hours between providers but splitting is limited to a maximum of two sites per day. Remember to get your 30 hours code checked by all the providers you use.
  • like at school, your provider might charge for additional services, for example; lunch, trips or music classes but these charges cannot be a condition of accessing your 30 hours place. 
  • 30 hours is available for 38 weeks of the year (just like the existing 15 hours scheme). Some providers will allow you to ‘stretch’ your 30 hours entitlement over 52 weeks of the year meaning fewer hours per week (e.g. you could take 22 hours a week for 52 weeks). 

Foster Parents:

  • you may be eligible for your children in foster care if it is consistent with the child’s care plan and you and your partner (if any) are working outside your fostering role. You should start by discussing this with your social worker

If you are no longer eligible

If your circumstances change and you fall out of eligibility you will no longer be eligible to claim the additional 15 hours of childcare. There will be a grace period until the start of the next term giving you the opportunity to start work again.  If your circumstances change during the grace period you can reapply and continue to receive the extra funded hours. You will continue to receive the universal 15 hours of free early education for 3 and 4 year olds.

Contact us if you require help finding the right childcare for you and your child.