From September 2017 the government has committed to increasing the free childcare offer from 15 hours to 30 hours a week for families that are eligible. Currently all families are entitled to 15 hours free child care for 15 hours per week for their 3 and 4 year olds. The purpose of the increased childcare is to support working parents with childcare costs.
Eligibility for the 30 hours extended entitlement
Initially children must be 3 or 4 years old by 31st August 2017 and subsequently children will be eligible the term after their 3rd birthday. The additional hours will be available to families where:
- Both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family); 'Both parents are working' includes circumstances where;
- One or both parents are temporarily away from the workplace on parental, adoption, maternity or paternity leave;
- One or both parents are temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay;
- One parent is employed and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring; or
- One parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits.
- Each parent has a weekly minimum income equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage or living wage; (parents do not necessarily need to actually work 16 hours a week, but rather their earnings must reflect at least 16 hours of work at national minimum wage or national living wage, which is £107 a week at the current national minimum wage rate)
- Neither parent has an income of more than £100,000 per year.
- Parents must live in England
- If unemployed, both parents must become employed within 14 days of applying unless one of the above applies
- Once your child is attending school, they are no longer eligible for free childcare including this offer
If you are a sole parent then all the conditions above just apply to you.
Circumstances where you may still be eligible
You can still apply for 30 hours free childcare if you or your partner are:
- temporarily away from England for a period of up to 6 months, such as if you're in the military (on duty)
- already getting Universal Credit or tax credits
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 have been assessed as having limited capability for work for Universal Credit purpose
To check eligibility for 30 Hours Free Childcare, please visit
What types of childcare you can use?
This entitlement can only be used with registered childcare providers registered to access Northamptonshire County Council early education funding. This includes:
- Pre-Schools, Play Groups and Nurseries
- Out Of School Clubs
This includes early education and childcare provision run by schools.
It is possible to use funding at more than one childcare provider, for example;
- a nursery and a childminder
- two nurseries/pre-schools
- a pre-school and an after-school club
Some providers may not be able to offer 30 hours, for example due to places available or their opening times. It is important to check your chosen provider offers the hours you require.
It is also possible to use your entitlement in various patterns to best suit your families’ needs. For example it may suit you to make use of a ‘stretched offer ‘of just under 23 hours per week over 50 weeks instead of 30 hours over 38 weeks which is the minimum offer.
How will eligibility be checked?
Once the system is operational there will be a simple online eligibility checker similar to that currently used to check eligibility for funded hours for 2 year olds. Parents will then have to reconfirm their eligibility on a three-monthly basis. If their circumstances alter and they are no longer eligible then there will be a short grace period before the child’s funding ends in order to help the child, family and provider to manage the change. At this moment the length of this grace period has not yet been confirmed by the Department for Education (DfE)
If you experience any issues with your eligibility, please contact HMRC on 0300 123 4097.