Skip to main content

Find out about the 30 hours of FREE childcare for 3 & 4 year-olds

Childcare / nursery free place extended to 30 hours a week

All three and four-year-olds living in the Uk, regardless of family income or residency status, will continue to be entitled to a FREE nursery / early education place for 15 hours a week. 

In addition, the 30 hours entitlement which came into effect September 2017, is an 'extension' of the current 15 hour entitlement, providing an ADDITONAL free 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year (term-time only) for children that meet the eligibility criteria. 

It is ONLY the extra 15 hours that has eligibility criteria.

To find out if you are eligible for the extra 15 hours visit

The extended hours support working parents
The aim is to help working parents with the costs of childcare, so they can return to work, continue to work or increase their working hours if they need to by reducing the financial burden of childcare.

Parents who are studying will not qualify for the 30 hours entitlement, unless they meet the eligibility criteria.

Good for children's development
Children attending a full day at nursery or formal childcare (such as with a childminder) experience a caring and happy early year’s environment that supports their learning and development and prepares them to do really well at school and in later life.

30 hours free childcare is available at participating:

    • Full day care (e.g. nurseries)
    • Schools
    • Childminders
    • Sessional providers (e.g. playgroups)
    • Children's Centres
    • After school clubs

The 30 hours free childcare offer is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables (such as nappies or sun cream), additional hours or additional activities (such as trips). Providers may charge a fee for these extras.

If you choose to pay for these, it is an arrangement between you and the childcare provider. However, the childcare provider should not ask you to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a 30 hours place.

Is my child eligible for the 30 hours free childcare?

Eligibility Criteria

Will I qualify for 30 hours free childcare?

For more information regarding eligibility, please visit: 30 hours free childcare - GOV.UK ( (GOV.UK)

How do I apply?

  • Parents must apply directly to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) not the Local Authority or the Childcare Provider.

  • Parents can now apply for places either through an online application system via the Childcare Choices website:

    Or by phone at the Customer Interaction Centre (which should also be used if you have any queries)

    Tel: 0300 123 4097

    • You, and your partner, if you have one, will need your:

      • National Insurance number(s)
      • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed
      • Details of one or more of the following -your UK passport, tax credits, P60 or a recent pay slip.
      • In some cases, additional checks may be needed to confirm whether you’re eligible, so it’s very important to apply in good time.
      • If you are found ineligible, HMRC will tell you why

    • The application process for the 30 hours extended free entitlement and Tax Free Childcare will be aligned so a parent need only apply once to HMRC for both schemes.

    • If eligible HMRC will set up a secure online account for parents, called the Government Gateway. The parent will receive a Government Gateway ID and can access details of the eligibility code for the 30hr place. You can find your code in 'secure messages'. In this section, there will be an online style letter which will include your code. Most codes will start with 500*.

    • There will be an eligibility code per parent / child combination, therefore multiple birth siblings will each have their own code.

    • Parents will take their code to an approved childcare provider or school nursery of their choice to show they are eligible for the additional 15 hours free childcare.

    • Your childcare provider will check your code is valid and you can then reserve a 30hours place.

    Apply for a place in plenty of time

    We recommend that you apply in good time. You can apply up to 16 weeks before your child turns three. 

    You must have received your valid voucher code from HMRC on or before the dates below to be eligible for a place in the following term.

    The child will be entitled to a free place from:

    By December 31st

    1st January Onwards-Spring Term

    By March 31st

    1st April Onwards-Summer Term

    By August 31st

    1st September Onwards-Autumn Term

    If you receive a voucher code mid-term, the funded place will be available at the start of the next term. There are no mid-term starts available for the funded places.

    Remember you must reconfirm that you are eligible every 3 months from your online account. If you do not reconfirm your eligibility, the code will become invalid and you are at risk of losing funding for the 30-hour place.


How do I reconfirm my eligibility after three months?

  • You need to continue to confirm your eligibility for the additional hours, very three months on your account. If you don't do this, you may be putting your funded childcare place at risk.

  • HMRC will manage the application process and send out reminders to parents about the need to reconfirm their eligibility and how to do this. You will receive a text and/or email four weeks before your reconfirmation deadline. This will prompt you to log into your Childcare Service account.

  • In the account, you must go to 'secure messages'. You can access this section at any time. The section on reconfirmation will inform you of your reconfirmation date.

  • You can reconfirm your eligibility up to four weeks before your reconfirmation date.

  • The eligibility code for a parent / child combination will not change over time even if its validity lapses and a new application is submitted.
  • If your reconfirmation is not done by the end of the grace period and is after the above dates your child will not be funded for a place from the following term.

For example:

Code expired 24th February 2018, Grace period expired 31st March 2018. Reconfirmation completed on 5th April 2018.

This code is then no longer eligible for a Summer Term place (April to July) as the code has been issued after the grace period deadline of March 31st 2018.

What happens if a parents’ circumstances change?

  • If a parents’ circumstances change and they are no longer eligible for the additional 15 hours of free childcare, they will receive a message in their account to say that their eligibility has ended. The place will then move into a ‘grace period’.

  • In the ‘grace period’, the funding for the place will be extended for a limited time, in order that the parent can reapply to HMRC if their circumstances change to become eligible again or make alternative arrangements for childcare.

  • If you're no longer eligible, you can still use the 15-hour universal early education place that all 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to.

What happens if a parent does not reconfirm their eligibility on time?

If a parent does not reconfirm on time before the end of the three-month period, their 30 hour place is automatically moved into the grace period. 

  • If a parent has still not reconfirmed by the end of the grace period, the voucher becomes inactive and funding for the place ceases. 
  • If a parent reapplies after the grace period and their eligibility is re-confirmed, they may have to wait until the start of the next term for funding to be assigned to the reactivated code.

When can my child take up the extra hours?

  • A child will be entitled to the additional free hours, from the term after their third birthday and if the parent has met the eligibility criteria.

    For example, if your child was three in October, they would be entitled to take up their place from the beginning of the Spring term, which starts in January.

     If the child’s 3rd birthday is on or between:

    The child will be entitled to a free place from:

    1st January to 31st March

    1st April Onwards- Summer Term

    1st April to 31st August

    1st September Onwards-Autumn Term

    1st September-31st December

    1st January Onwards-Spring Term


Does my child have to take up the whole 30 hours?

  • It is the parents’ choice.
  • Some parents feel their child is not ready to attend the full 30 hours a week and they choose to start their child on fewer hours.

Please note: The hours you wish to take need to be discussed and arranged with the school / childcare provider.

Can I share the 30 hours across more than one school/childcare provider?

Parents are able to nominate up to three childcare providers for the delivery of their entitlement, but the government has set a maximum of two sites that can be used in a single day to deliver the childcare.

For example: A parent drops their child at a childminder (provider 1) for the morning session and then the childminder takes the child to school (provider 2) for the afternoon session. The parent collects their child from school.

How flexibly can I take the 30 hours of free childcare?

    • Your child is entitled to access up to 30 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, which is equivalent of a total of 1140 hours per year.
    • You may be able to choose a different pattern of attendance depending on which school / childcare provider you choose to use

    There are some conditions related to flexibility

    • no session is to be longer than 10 hours
    • no minimum session length (subject to the requirements of registration on the Ofsted Early Years Register)
    • not before 6.00am or after 8.00pm
    • a maximum of two sites in a single day

    Some providers offer a “flexible” offer to better meet parents’ year-round childcare needs. You should discuss if this is available with the school / childcare provider.


    • 38 weeks standard offer: 30 hours per week, term-time only
    • 45 weeks ‘stretched’ offer: 25 hours per week plus flexible 15 hours delivered as agreed between parent and provider.
    • 51 weeks ‘stretched’ offer: 22 hours per week plus flexible18 hours delivered as agreed between parents and provider.
    • You are also able to use the 15 hours extra hours before and after school and during school holidays, again depending on which school / childcare provider may offer this and you choose to use (including childminders).


    Do all schools and childcare providers have to offer the 30 hours free childcare?

    • It is not the law nor compulsory for schools or childcare providers to offer the additional 15 hours over and above the current 15 hours entitlement for all 3 and 4 year olds.

    • It is the school / childcare providers’ individual choice whether they provide places for the additional 15 hours, not the Council.

    • The Council is providing support and guidance to schools and providers to enable them to do so if they wish.

    • There may be good reasons why the School/ Provider does not offer the additional 15 hours:

      • They may not have any spare nursery places for 3 & 4 year olds or the capacity to create new places.

      • Some schools / childcare providers that already offer a flexible choice for parents may review what they currently provide and feel the impact of changing what they offer to include the additional 15 hours free childcare would be detrimental to their current service.

      • In addition there is a cost / sustainability factor for them to take into consideration.

      • The decision for schools / childcare providers on whether to offer the additional 15 hours free childcare will have been taken after much consideration and debate. 

    Can I use the additional 15 hours for out-of-school providers and childminders?

    Yes, you can use the additional 15 hours a week for your child to attend a breakfast club, after school club or with a childminder.

    Back to top