Help with childcare costs for 2, 3 or 4 year olds

All parents of 3 and 4 year old children are able to claim up to 570 hours a year of funded childcare or early education (Universal Childcare support).  Some parents may also be eligible to claim up to an additional 570 hours a year of funded childcare or early education (Extended Childcare support). Some parents of 2 year old children may also be eligible to claim funded childcare or early education.

Please choose one of the options below to find out more information on childcare support:

If you receive financial support you could be eligible for free childcare for your child when they turn 2 (children looked after by the local authority automatically qualify for this childcare).

All eligible 2 year olds, are entitled to 570 hours of funded early education or childcare per year. This is usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.

How do I apply for free childcare for my 2 year old?

Find out if you qualify

What happens if my child is eligible?

If your child is eligible, the online eligibility checker will give you a reference number which remains active for six weeks. It must be checked by a childcare provider within six weeks of issue and being reserved a place, even if your child cannot start straight away.

If the reference number is not checked within six weeks, it will expire and you will need to use the eligibility checker again to obtain another valid reference number.

Where can my child take up their free childcare?

You can use the free childcare at any good or outstanding OFSTED registered childcare provider or childminder.

To find a list of childcare providers and childminders please view our Children and families service finder.

Search for a childcare provider

Find out more about choosing the right childcare provider.

When can my child start?

To find out when your child would be able to start a 2 year funded place, use the start calculator document below:

How many free hours will my child receive?

Every eligible child is entitled to access a maximum of 570 hours of free childcare for 2 year olds. This is split into three funding blocks in the year following the child’s second birthday, on the following basis:

  • a maximum of 15 hours per week over a minimum of 2 days per week
  • a maximum of 10 hours in a single day
  • a minimum of 2½ continuous hours in any one day
  • take all or part of the free childcare and education at a single setting, or a maximum of two settings (including maintained sector schools)

All 3 and 4 year olds can receive up to 570 hours a year of childcare. This is spread across three funding blocks, with a maximum of 15 hours a week.

When can I take up a place for my child?

Children qualify for the first full funding block of childcare following their third birthday.

The three blocks are:

  • 1 September to 31 December
  • 1 January to 31 March
  • 1 April to 31 August

To find out when the free childcare will start for your child, just enter your child's birth month and year into the start calculator below:

How do I claim my free childcare?

To claim your free childcare please speak to your chosen childcare provider who can help.

Childcare providers cannot charge for these free hours. Find out more about choosing the right childcare provider.  

Where can my child take up their childcare?

You can access the free entitlement at most OFSTED registered childcare providers. These include:

  • Private day nurseries
  • Pre-school playgroups
  • Maintained nurseries (nurseries attached to a school) 
  • Childminders and childminder agencies
  • Independent schools

Details of all childcare providers can be found on the Children and families service finder.

Search for a childcare provider

Can I use more than one childcare provider?

You may choose for your child to take all or part of their free entitlement at a maximum of two childcare providers.

What if I don’t want to use the free childcare straight away?

Not all parents choose to start their free entitlement as soon as they qualify. It may be that you choose to start a few weeks into the term. Your child is still entitled to free entitlement regardless of when you choose to start in the term, provided:

  • The childcare provider you have chosen has a vacancy.
  • The vacancy that is available does not require the childcare provider to employ another member of staff - additional children would exceed the amount of children they are allowed to have, as set by OFSTED in the OFSTED ratios.
  • The childcare provider has no information conditions written into their admissions policy or terms and conditions to state that they will not admit funded children after the headcount day has passed.

Contact us

If you require assistance regarding the free entitlement, please contact us at:

All families can currently claim up to 15 hours a week of free funded childcare or early education for 3 and 4 year old children. Working parents may be able to claim additional hours to support with childcare costs. 

Am I eligible for the additional hours?

The additional hours can be claimed if you meet the eligibility criteria.

When should I apply for the additional hours?

You need to apply for a code from HMRC before the start of the term your child will be eligible.

​Date of child's third birthdayDate you need to apply byDate child becomes eligible for the 30-hour entitlement (if parents have had eligibility confirmed)
​1 January to 31 March​31 March*​Start of term beginning on or following 1 April
​1 April to 31 August​31 August*​Start of term beginning or following 1 September
​1 September to 31 December​31 December*​Start of term beginning or following 1 January

*Please allow time for HMRC to process your code and for your provider to validate it. The 30 hour code application deadlines have been set by the Department for Education. We recommend that you apply at least three weeks before the deadline date, in case of any delays when receiving your code.

Your childcare provider may have set their own deadline for validating 30 hour codes prior to the beginning of each term. This is particularly the case for funded places beginning in September with providers who are closed for the Summer holidays. Please talk to your childcare provider about when to provide them with your 30 hour code, in order to ensure your child will receive the funding.

A valid eligibility code must have been received from HMRC prior to accessing the additional hours.

How do I apply for the additional hours?

You can apply via the GOV.UK site below.

Apply now

Do I need to re-apply?

You must confirm your details are up to date every 3 months or your code will expire and funding for your additional hours will stop.

You can do this on the HRMC portal.

Where can my child take up their childcare?

You can access the free entitlement at most OFSTED registered childcare providers. These include:

  • Private day nurseries
  • Pre-school playgroups
  • Maintained nurseries
  • Childminders and childminder agencies
  • Out of School provision
  • Independent schools

Details of all childcare providers can be found on the Children and families service finder.

Search for a childcare provider

Please check that the provider offers the additional hours and all of the terms and conditions before taking up the place.

​Foster carers of children aged 3 and 4 may be able to claim 30 hours of childcare, from September 2018, if they meet certain criteria and if it's deemed right for the child.

See 30 hours free childcare for foster carers to check eligibility.

What is the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP)?

The EYPP is additional funding available for investment in improving outcomes for children. It is used to improve the facilities, equipment and learning experiences to benefit the growth and development of your child.

Can I claim the Early Years Pupil Premium?

Children who are currently claiming the free entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds, in Northamptonshire, could be eligible if all of the following apply:

  • they are 3 or 4 years old
  • receive free entitlement in any OFSTED registered childcare provider
  • parents are in receipt of one or more of the benefits used to access eligibility for free school meals

Or they have:

  • been looked after by Northamptonshire County Council for at least one day
  • been adopted from care in Northamptonshire
  • left care through special guardianship; and subject to a child arrangement order setting out with whom the child is to live (formerly known as residence orders) in Northamptonshire

How can I check if my child qualifies for the EYPP?

If you think your child qualifies for the EYPP, please speak your childcare provider who will do a check as part of your child’s funding claim.

How do I receive the EYPP?

The EYPP is paid directly to your childcare provider as part of their normal funding claim.

What type of childcare provider is eligible to receive the premium?

Any OFSTED registered childcare provider can claim the premium if you: 

  • use their service for the free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds and
  • give the childcare provider your reference number

Find out more information about the EYPP

To find out more about the EYPP you can either talk to your childcare provider or you can email

Other sources of support

To see all available childcare support and what you are entitled to please visit HM Government Childcare Choices.