Skip to main content

Find out about the 30 hours of FREE childcare

Childcare / nursery free place extended to 30 hours a week

All 3 and 4 year-olds (regardless of family income or residency status) will continue to entitled to a FREE nursery / early education place for 15 hours a week. 

The new entitlement which comes 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 please click here

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 new 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.

Is my child eligible for the 30 hours free childcare?

Eligibility Criteria

Will I qualify for 30 hours free childcare?

Parents of three and four year olds will need to meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for 30 hours free childcare:

  • They earn or expect to earn the equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum or Living Wage over the coming three months. 
  • This equates to £120 a week (or c. £6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112.80 a week (or c. £5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old.

  • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on zero hours contract.

  • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work.

  • Where one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or if they are on statutory sick leave. 
  • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work. 
  • 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. 
  • If a non-EEA national, the parent must have recourse to public funds.


Who will not qualify?

A parent will not meet the criteria when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000
  • Either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control (and has no recourse to public funds)

What happens if a parent loses eligibility?

  • They will receive a “grace period” – this means they will be able to keep their childcare for a short period.
  • Once the “grace period” has lapsed, the parent may be entitled to the universal 15 hour entitlement.


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

  • 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 account for parents and the parent will receive an eligibility code to their secure account.

  • 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 childcar provider or school nursery of their choice to show they are eligible for the additional 15 hours free childcare.


How do I reconfirm my eligibility after three months?

  • HMRC will manage the application process and send out reminders to parents about the need to reconfirm their eligibility 4 weeks before the end of the 3 month period and how to do this.

  • It is expected the reconfirmation notifications will be sent about one month before the end validity date and that reconfirmation by the parent will be able take place at any time from then.

  • 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 a parents circumstances change and they are no longer eligible for the additional 15 hours of free childcare, a ‘grace period’ will apply so that children can continue with their free place for a short period of time, whilst alternate arrangements can be made.

  • If a parent’s circumstances change again whilst they are in the grace period, they may reapply to HMRC and become eligible again.

  • If you're no longer eligible, you can still access the 15 hour universal early education entitlement for 3 and 4-year-olds. 

When can my child take up the extra hours?

  • This extends the 15 hours free place universal entitlement that is available to all 3 & 4 year olds.

  • Your child will be able to take up their place from the term after their third birthday. 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

April Onwards-Summer Term

1st April to 31st August

September Onwards-Autumn Term

1st September-31st December

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?

Your first choice of school/childcare provider might not be able to offer the full 30 hours. In that case you can

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

    Consider what kind of flexible option would meet your needs to support you to take up the full 30 hours free childcare.


    • 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

    Social Media