Skip to main content

30 hours free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds

If your child will be 3 years old between 1 September and 31 December 2017

 you must apply now for a place to start in January.


All three and four year olds are entitled to up to 15 hours of free childcare and early education a week for up to 38 weeks a year, eligible working families are entitled to an additional 15 hours. Children can access these entitlements in school nursery classes, private day nurseries, pre-school playgroups and with childminders. 

Am I eligible for the 30 hours free childcare?

Parents of three and four year olds need to meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for 30 hours free childcare:

  • They earn or expect to earn the equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum or Living Wage over the coming three months.
  • This equates to £120 a week (or £6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112.80 a week (or £5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old and £56 a week for apprentices in their first year. This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on zero hours contract.
  • Have an annual income of less than £100,000 if they are a sole parent family or less than £200,000 if they are a two parent family.
  • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work.
  • Where one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or if they are on statutory sick leave.
  • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work.
  • Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (i.e. they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.
  • If one or both parents is a non-EEA national, the parent applying must have recourse to public funds

A parent will not meet the criteria when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000
  • If one or both parents is a non-EEA national and the parent applying does not have recourse to public funds

What happens if a parent loses eligibility?

  • They will receive a ‘grace period’ – this means they will be able to keep their childcare for a short period.
  • Once the ‘grace period’ has lapsed, the parent should be entitled to the universal 15-hour entitlement

How do I apply?

Eligibility will be checked by HM Revenue & Customs via an online application.

 Check your eligibility and apply here....

Where can my child get their 30 hours free childcare?

Early years providers such as schools, childminders, private day nurseries and pre-schools can choose to offer the extended entitlement.  This is optional for providers therefore your preferred provider may not be offering places or they may only be offering a limited number of places.

When does my child become eligible?

Your child will become eligible at the start of the school term after their third birthday and after you have confirmed your eligibility via the HMRC online application.

  • Children born between 1 January - 31 March become eligible from 1 April.
  • Children born between 1 April - 31 August become eligible from 1 September.
  • *Children born between 1 September - 31 December become eligible from 1 January. You must apply now if your child's birthday falls within these dates. Don't leave it until 31st December 2017.

Will I have to pay for anything?

Your child’s 15 hour or 30 hour place is free. However, providers can offer additional services which you may be charged for and this may include lunch.  Parents/carers should be offered a choice of providing a packed lunch where the provider charges for lunch.  

Providers must make parents fully aware of any additional charges that apply before a free place is taken up. 

Parents/carers should be clearly invoiced so that they have a thorough understanding of: 

  • the free entitlement hours
  • any additional hours or charges for services 

Can I take my child’s 30 hours free childcare all year round i.e. during school holidays?

Yes, some providers may offer a ‘stretched entitlement’ which allows you to use fewer hours a week over more weeks.  In addition, you may use more than one provider in order to be able to access the full 30 hours e.g. a school nursery class offering 15 hours and a childminder offering the remaining 15 hours. 

My child has a Special Educational Need or Disability

Childcare providers must offer support for children accessing their provision with a disability or identified special educational need. Once your child has enrolled in either a day nursery or pre-school, they may be able to access extra support through the Early Years SEN Team.  In addition to this,  further support is available to childcare providers to help support your child through the Disability Access Fund.

Back to top