30 Hours "free" childcare

November 19

30 hours 'free' childcare

All three to four-year-olds in the UK can get an element of free childcare. In England, each child gets 570 free hours a year (usually taken as 15 hours a week over 38 weeks). Plus, working households are usually entitled to double that as long as you (and your partner if you have one) each earn an average of at least £131 a week – the equivalent of at least 16 hours a week on the living wage from April. You could also be eligible if:

  • You are self-employed or on a zero-hours contract and expect to meet the earning criteria on average over the three months after you have applied for the 30-hours.
  • You are starting up your own business - you will not be expected to meet the minimum earning criteria in your first year of trading
  • You are not working but you expect to take up paid work within 14 days, as long as you expect to meet the income criteria over the coming three months.

If you live with a partner, you both must meet the above criteria. This still applies if one of you is not the child’s parent.  If you are separated/divorced from your child’s parent, the eligibility rules only apply to the parent that the child normally lives with (and their new partner if they are part of the same household).

You will not have to meet the minimum earnings criteria if you and your partner are employed but one or both of you is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity, adoption leave, or on statutory sick pay or if you are employed but your partner either has substantial caring responsibilities, or is disabled or incapacitated, or vice versa. This is dependent on you or your partner being entitled to specific disability or caring benefits.

Your child is eligible for the 30 hours offer from the term after they turn three, or the term after you receive your eligibility code – whichever is later - until they reach compulsory school age.  Once you're registered for the scheme, you will need to reconfirm your eligibility every three months by logging into your Childcare Services account. Failing to do so could result in your care being withdrawn.

If you no longer meet the eligibility criteria, for example because you lose your job, your child’s 30-hour place will continue to be funded for a ‘grace period’. You should discuss this with your provider if and when you lose eligibility. 

Households where a parent earns £100,000+ a year are not eligible. If you’re not eligible for a 30-hour place, you will still be eligible for the 15-hour offer.


Things to know

  • Early years providers don’t have to offer the 30 hours.
  • You don’t have to take up the full 30 hours to receive funding.
  • You can split the offer between more than one childcare provider.
  • 30-hour funding only covers 38 weeks of the year. However, your provider may choose to deliver a ‘stretched offer’ i.e. fewer hours per week over more weeks of the year.
  • Government funding is meant to cover the delivery of early education and care only. This means that childcare providers are allowed to charge for additional goods, services and activities, such as lunch or trips, as long as these charges are voluntary.  
  • There is also help available with childcare costs for families with children aged 2, if they are in receipt of certain benefits. 


To find out how much you could get towards approved childcare costs, use the childcare calculator at  www.gov.uk/childcare-calculator To make an application go to:  https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/  

For a full benefit check or more help to explore your options, call Uttlesford Citizens Advice on 01799 618840. Advisers at Uttlesford Citizens Advice can help check your eligibility and offer advice on benefits and tax allowances as well as housing, debt, relationship and employment issues. Call 01799 618840 for an appointment.

Barnards Yard, CB11 4EB

T: 01799 618840 

W: uttlesfordcab.org.uk

E: bureau@uttlesfordcab.cabnet.org.uk

Saffron Walden 9.30 to 3.30 M.T.Th.F. 

Great Dunmow 9.30 to 3.30 T. W. Th.

Stansted Mountfitchet and Thaxted by appointment only



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