Due to delays in eligibility codes being issued by HMRC there may be some families who applied for 30 hours free childcare in August and have not received their code by 31 August. If you started your application process before 31 August here's what you now need to do:

  1. Contact the HMRC childcare service helpline on 0300 123 4097 to receive a temporary code beginning with ‘11’. This needs to be done by 14 September.
  2. Provide this temporary code to your childcare provider (there may be a three day wait before the code issued by HMRC can be validated by your provider)

If you take up additional childcare prior to confirmation please note that these hours may be fully chargeable if the code is not validated or you don't meet the eligibility criteria. Your childcare provider will be able to provide further information around code validations and what to do next.

If you have not started your application you will not be able to get the extended entitlement to 30 hours free childcare until 1 January 2018.

The 30 hours extended entitlement is double the  universal entitlement of 15 hours which is available for all three and four-year-olds. Working parents can use it as 30 hours per week during term time or 22.8 hours per week if you choose to ‘stretch’ your entitlement across 50 weeks of the year. (1140 hours in total). 

Check you are eligible and apply

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

  • If you want to take up the entitlement from September 2017 you need to apply for your code by 31 August 2017. Codes issued after this date cannot be used to access free childcare until the start of the next term (1 January 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 free place.
  • 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 with HMRC, you can start claiming from the beginning of the following term, i.e. 1 April, 1 September or 1 January.

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. You can split the 30 free hours across a maximum of two sites in a single day. 

Frequently asked questions

You can contact HMRC's Childcare Service on 0300 123 4097 for further information and assistance regarding your application.

No, there’s only one 30 hours policy, it's the same scheme.

To work out whether you qualify for the 30 hours free childcare, you and your current partner will be assessed for eligibility.

No. Foster carers may be eligible for the extended entitlement for their own children but they cannot claim the 30 hours free childcare for the children who they foster.

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. 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.

Yes. Parents who are on temporary leave from work such as maternity leave or statutory sick pay, are still considered to be in work. Please contact HMRC to discuss this further.

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 30 hours free childcare.

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.

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. 

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.

The scheme is for working parents so both  parents must be in work, or for single parent families, the sole parent must be working. Please take a look at the full eligibility criteria and exceptions.

You will need to log in to your Childcare Service account to access your eligibility code. 

Instructions on how parents can access their Childcare Service account

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. 

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