Find out more about Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare for parents

2. 30 hours free childcare

Eligibility

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare over 38 weeks of the year (or fewer hours over more weeks). Some 2-year-olds are also eligible. 3 and 4-year-olds may also be entitled to an additional 570 hours of free childcare over 38 weeks of the year, a total of 1,140 hours. Its possible to stretch your entitlement by taking fewer hours over more weeks of the year. Use the childcare calculator to see what childcare support you could get.

When can you apply?

The date you can apply depends on your child's birthday. Your child is eligible:

  • from the term following their 3rd birthday until they reach compulsory school age
  • if they usually live with you – you do not have to be their parent however foster carers are exempt
Child's birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March The beginning of the summer term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August The beginning of the autumn term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December The beginning of the spring term on or after 1 January

Example

Your child was born on 15 February 2013 and will turn 3 on 15 February 2016. You can get free childcare from 1 April 2016. The free early education and childcare entitlements for 3 and 4-year-olds can only be acquired from an approved childcare provider who is on the early years register.

To be eligible, you (and your partner if you have one), must either:

  • each expect to earn at least £120 a week or work more than 16 hours at the National Living Wage (unless you became self-employed less than 12 months ago), or each expect to earn at least £113 a week or work more than 16 hours at the National Minimum Wage (unless you became self-employed less than 12 months ago)
  • each expect to earn at least £61.92 a week if you're under 18, £84.80 a week if you're aged 18-20 or £52.80 a week if you're an apprentice (either under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship)

You, and your partner, must also both:

  • live in England
  • expect to have income of less than £100,000 each a year

If you and your partner are unemployed, you and your partner must become employed within 14 days of applying. You may get different eligibility outcomes for each of your children if you apply for 30 hours free childcare for more than one child.

Important - if your child is in reception, you can't use your code to get free childcare. Once your child is of compulsory school age, they're no longer eligible.

You're not eligible if:

  • you're in receipt of a childcare grant
  • you're a full-time student/an intern
  • you're not entitled to receive public funds

Circumstances where you may still be eligible

You can use 30 hours free childcare if you're already getting Universal Credit or tax credits, and you can still apply for 30 hours free childcare if you or your partner:

  • are taking paid time off work, such as maternity leave, paternity leave or sick leave
  • are temporarily away from England for a period of up to 6 months, such as if you're in the military (on duty)

You can also still apply for 30 hours free childcare if either you or your partner are employed or self-employed and one of you gets one or more of the following benefits:

  • contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit or long-term Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • National Insurance credits because of incapacity or limited capability for work
  • you've been assessed as having limited capability for work for Universal Credit purposes

Applying for 30 hours free childcare

You'll be able to apply for 30 hours free childcare and Tax-Free Childcare in a single online childcare service application. If you're eligible, we'll open a childcare service account for you (you only need to complete one application for all your children).

Securing your 30 hours place

If you're eligible for 30 hours free childcare, you'll receive a 30 hours eligibility code, your unique 11-digit reference number. This code is important as you'll need it to claim your free childcare. You should take the code to your childcare provider or local authority along with your National Insuranc number and your child's date of birth to secure your free childcare place. Your childcare provider will check the code with the local authority and confirm your eligibility. You and your childcare provider will then be able to discuss when provision can begin.

Reconfirming your eligibility

Every three months, you'll need to reconfirm that you're still eligible for 30 hours free childcare. You'll be reminded to reconfirm you're still eligible 4 weeks before the deadline. If you also receive Tax-Free Childcare, you'll be able to reconfirm your eligibility for both schemes at the same time. You don't need to take your code to your provider or local authority every time you reconfirm however, you should notify your provider if you fall out of eligibility. You can apply for 30 hours free childcare for another child at any time. The point at which you'll need to reconfirm will be aligned for all children. This means that you won't need to go online to reconfirm at different points in the month for each child. If you don't reconfirm, your childcare provider and local authority will be told that you no longer meet the requirements for a free childcare place.

If you become ineligible you may still be able to access your free childcare place for a short period, known as a 'start up period'. You can check what your start up period arrangements are with your childcare provider or local authority. If you're no longer eligible, you can still access the 15 hour universal early education entitlement for 3 and 4-year-olds.

Get more information about free childcare

You can get more information about free early education and childcare from your local council or by going to find free early education and childcare on GOV.UK.