The 30 hour childcare scheme is part of the Childcare Act 2016. The scheme is to help families with three and/or four year olds to get back into work or extend their working pattern.
All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week from the term following their third birthday. The 30 hour scheme extends this by another 15 hours for eligible working families.
For more information on support with childcare costs and current schemes available, you can contact Families Information Service on 0800 0345 340.
How the scheme works
- You can check if you're eligible for the scheme on the Childcare Choices website.
- If you're eligible you then need to apply on GOV.UK.
- You'll be given a code, which you need to take to your chosen childcare provider as soon as possible.
- The childcare provider will check the code with the local authority and confirm the childcare place.
- You must apply and receive their code by:
- 31 August 2023 (for a September 2023 start)
- 31 December 2023 (for a January 2024 start)
- 31 March 2024 (for an April 2024 start)
- The childcare stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later)
Guide to applying for 30 hours free childcare
Finding a childcare provider
If you haven’t already found a childcare provider, you can search all Ofsted registered childcare on the Family Service Directory (FSD). Call the Families Information Service on 0800 0345 340 or email email@example.com if you need help.
Who can apply for 30 hours free childcare
Only families with children aged three and four years old can apply for the 30 hours of free childcare.
You'll be eligible to apply:
- if you earn (or expect to be earning within 14 days of applying) the equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum or living wage by the time you take up the additional 15 hours offer. This equates to:
- £112.80 a week (or £5800 a year) if you’re between 21 and 24 years old
- £120 a week (or £6000 a year) if you're over 25
You won't be eligible to apply if:
- either parent has an income of more than £100,000
- either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control (and has no recourse to public funds)
Read more about eligibility on GOV.UK.
You can find out if you’re eligible for 30 hours childcare on the Childcare Choices website. It allows you to:
- check your eligibility for each of the childcare schemes (30 hours and Tax Free Childcare)
- find out more about each scheme
- sign up for a scheme or register for email alerts
- find out what you need to do next
The website allows you to select how much you earn and whether or not you live with a partner. You'll then be shown your options, highlighted in yellow. Schemes you don't quality for will be greyed out. Under each available option you'll see 'Is it for me?'. Selecting this will display more details and direct you to the relevant place, such as online registration, calculators, email alerts, or a GOV.UK webpage.
If you're not eligible to claim 30 hours childcare
If you've checked your eligibility and you aren't eligible for the scheme:
- you'll still be entitled to take up 15 free hours of childcare
- you may be eligible for a different scheme. The Childcare Choices site will show you your eligibility for these.
How to apply and sign up for an account
Once you've visited the Childcare Choices website to check your eligibility, go to the childcare service webpage.
- On the webpage you'll see five headings. Select 'Apply or sign into the childcare service as a parent'.
- You'll see an explanation of the application process. Below this you'll see 'Apply or sign in to your account'.
- You'll be asked to set up a Government Gateway account (if you don't already have one).
- You'll then be asked questions about you and your partner, including your National Insurance Number and income.
- At the end of the process, you'll have set up your childcare service account.
- If you're eligible to receive the 30 hours, you'll be given an 11-digit 'eligibility code'. You can see this in your 'secure messages' section of the childcare service account. This is the code you must give to your childcare provider.
From your childcare service account, you can also:
- access 'secure messages'
- view or update your details
- access a tax free childcare account
- reconfirm your code (you must reconfirm your code on the site every three months)
- submit a new application
- update your security details, such as your password and security questions
What to do when you have your code
- You must take the 11 digit eligibility code to your chosen childcare provider to secure a place. The code will be checked by the childcare provider before a place is offered to your child.
- Once the code has been validated, you and your childcare provider will agree a date when the 30 hours childcare will start.
- You'll receive notification in your childcare services account to reconfirm your eligibility for 30 hours before the validity end date.
- You confirm that your circumstances haven't changed since your application or update the application if they have.
If your circumstances change and you're no longer eligible
What happens if you lose eligibility
- You'll receive a 'grace period' – this means you'll be able to keep your childcare for a short period of time.
- Once the 'grace period' has lapsed, you should still be entitled to the 15 hour entitlement.
- If you've been taking up the extended entitlement at more than one provider, the local authority should continue to fund 15 hours at the provider of your choice.
- You should also check Childcare Choices to see if you've become eligible for a different scheme.
Appealing a decision
If you disagree with the eligibility decision you receive, you can appeal by calling HM Revenue and Customs on 0300 123 4097.