How does it work?

Every 3 and 4 year old is entitled to 570 hours of universal funded early education and childcare per year, this is usually known as 15 hours funding.  Some 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to another 570 hours of extended funded early education and childcare making it 1,140 hours in total, this is usually known as 30 hours funding.  It is referred to as 15 hours and 30 hours because children can have a maximum of 15 or 30 hours per week over the school year (38 weeks).  However, the funding is fully flexible so you can access the 570 or 1140 hours over any number of weeks from 38 to 52, for example fewer hours over more weeks; term time and/or school holidays.

Apply for 30 hours free childcare

Important to know

Children are eligible for the 15 hours from the term after they turn 3 years old, term start dates are 1 September, 1 January and 1 April.  Children are entitled to the 30 hours from the term after both the following criteria are met:

  • The child has become 3 years old and;
  • the child’s parent has a valid 30 hours eligibility code from the HMRC*.

Children continue to be eligible for the 15 hours until they start reception class in school or, in the case of 30 hours, they become ineligible.

You do not need to apply for the 15 hours universal funding, it is truly universal and you are eligible even if you have no recourse to public funds.  Your nursery, pre-school or childminder will sort it out for you. 

You will need to apply for the 30 hours extended funding, working parents (and in some cases; foster parents) may be entitled to the additional 570 hours bringing the total to 1140 hours per year.

To secure your child’s funded place (15 or 30 hours) you will need to complete a parent contract and provide a copy of your child’s birth certificate.  If you are accessing the 30 hours you will need to provide your childcare provider with the 30 hours code that you would have received when you applied.

You are able to use your 15 or 30 hours with up to 3 childcare providers (but no more than 2 on the same day), so you can mix and match your providers to make sure you get the best for you and your family from your funded hours.

*The Statutory Guidance states that parents who apply for the 30 hours and are told that they are eligible will NOT be able to start a new 30 hours place where their “grace period end date” is the same as the date of the end of the same term in which they become eligible.  In these cases, parents are still eligible for the 15 hours because this funding is universal.

When to apply for 30 hours

You can apply up to 16 weeks before your child turns 3 so that you have enough time to confirm your child’s place with the provider(s) you have chosen.

To make sure your child has a place during the term you wish them to start, please apply by:

  • 31 August for a September place
  • 31 December for a January place
  • 31 March for an April place 

How to apply

Check your eligibility and apply online at Childcare Choices. If you are eligible, you will be given a code. You will also need to set up a childcare account.

Eligibility code

Your valid code must be given to your childcare provider before your child can start using their funded hours. If your provider does not verify your code, you could lose your place or be invoiced for any hours you have already used.

Reconfirm your details every 3 months

You must reconfirm your details and eligibility every 3 months. This is really important, if you do not confirm your details by the deadline you could lose your funded hours for the following term.

Further information

For further information, please contact your childcare provider or visit Childcare Choices.