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Universal entitlement is 15 hours per week for all 3 and 4 year olds. The extended entitlement (30 hours) is an additional 15 hours for eligible working parents. The two combined total 30 hours a week during term time, or stretched over the year at fewer hours per week, up to a maximum of 1,140 hours per year. 

Check you are eligible and apply

Foster carers will need to follow a different process to apply – please see FAQs below

The application process above is managed by HMRC. Their Childcare Choices website also offers a comparison guide for all the ways you can reduce childcare costs. The HMRC Childcare Choices helpline number is 0300 123 4097.

  • Your child must be at least 2 years and 6 months old before you will be able to make an application using the online system.

  • Once your child turns three, and you have confirmed your eligibility (within the deadline) with HMRC, you can start claiming from the beginning of the term following their birthday, i.e. 1 April, 1 September or 1 January

  • The deadline for receiving your HMRC Code is the last day of the month, before the new term starts. For example to access extended entitlement from 1 January 2018 the code you receive from HMRC must be dated on, or before, 31 December 2017. If you apply for and are eligible but are not issued with an HMRC Code by 31 December 2017, the extended funding entitlement will be available from the following term 1 April 2018.

  • If you are eligible you'll get an 11 digit eligibility code. You will need to keep this safe, as you will need to provide this to your childcare provider to access your place.

  • Every three months, you'll need to reconfirm that you're still eligible for the extended entitlement. HMRC will send a reminder four weeks before the deadline. You don't need to update your provider every time you reconfirm, however please notify your provider if you fall out of eligibility.

Choosing a childcare provider

You will need to choose an eligible childcare provider that has capacity to offer you a childcare place for the hours you need. Visit our looking for childcare page where you can search for local provision and look at the types of childcare available.  

Please note: The Family Information Directory will be updated with details of which providers are participating in the 30 hour scheme and any limitations on the number of places or hours that they are able to provide, as this information becomes known to us. Not all providers will choose to participate in the scheme and others might choose to offer the entitlement in partnership, or collaboration with other providers in their area. 

Frequently asked questions

Please take a look at the national eligibility criteria and exceptions on gov.uk.

The check is managed by HMRC. If you are having difficulties, you should contact their Childcare Service helpline on 0300 123 4097 for further information and assistance regarding your application. 

Contact HMRC's Childcare Service on 0300 123 4097 for further information and assistance regarding your application or re-confirmation.

You will need to visit the gov.uk website and from this page click the large green button (apply or sign in to your account). You will be asked the age of your youngest child and will the use your Government Gateway ID to sign in with. From here you can access your childcare account details - click on secure messages to see a copy of the code you received.

If you have been unable to access Tax-Free Childcare through your childcare account for technical reasons, you may be able to claim compensation. Please visit Gov.uk to check if you are eligible for compensation and details on how to make a claim. 

As long as you don't claim more than 30 hours per week in total, or 1140 hours across the year if you stretch your claim, you can claim from both. Each child's funded hours can be split between up to three different providers (maximum of two sites in a single day). We can only fund Ofsted registered childcare providers (including registered childminders). We cannot fund any other types of care, including family arrangements. If a relative or friend looks after your child during the week, they can't be paid the free early years funding. 

If either or both of the child's parents stop work at any point, after a short grace period to support you to find a new job, the child will stop being eligible for the additional 15 hours childcare. This also applies to other changes to circumstances which affect eligibility.

Every three months, you'll need to reconfirm that you're still eligible for  the 30 hours extended childcare entitlement.

Childcare providers have flexibility to choose how they offer the additional hours and term time only provision meets the requirements in the statutory guidance from the Department for Education. Although it may not meet your specific needs, you can explore alternative options for the provision of the whole entitlement across the year, or split the funded hours between more than one childcare provider, to create a more flexible package of childcare.

Free entitlement hours can cover a lunch time period.  When this occurs there may be a charge for lunch or snack.  Any charges must be agreed with you in advance. If you don’t want to pay this charge the provider must give you the choice to either bring a packed lunch, bring your own snack, or allow you to take your child out of the setting over the lunch period.

The national online childcare service is unable to make the additional checks required for foster carers.

Eligibility criteria

  • Extended hours are integral to the child’s care plan
  • AND Where there is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaged in paid work outside their role as a foster parent
  • OR Where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent.

To apply for extended entitlement you must first contact your social worker. If it is agreed that the additional childcare is in the best interest of the child and is consistent to the child’s plan your social worker will provide the application form. The social care team will then check and sign off the application and send it to the Education Welfare Benefits team who will issue your code for you to take to the childcare provider.

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