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30-hour free childcare entitlement: FAQs

The Bi-borough Early Education and Childcare Service is committed to supporting your childcare business. We created this page in response to frequently asked questions.

Q1. What is the 30-hour free childcare entitlement?

All three and four year olds are entitled 15 hours of free childcare and early education a week for up to 38 weeks in a year. Children can access this entitlement in approved childcare providers such as, school, nursery classes, private day nurseries, pre-schools and with childminders. 

The Government has increased the entitlement from 15 to 30 hours a week for working parents who meet the eligibility criteria, this is called 30 hours (also referred to as extended entitlement). 

Q2. Who will be eligible for the additional 15 hours?

This is available to 3-4 year olds in families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family) and each parent earns, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW), and less than £100,000 per year.

If a parent is self-employed or on a zero hours-contract they are still eligible as long as they meet the earnings threshold.  You can also apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.

Q3. What if one parent is not working?

If one parent is not in paid employment the family will not usually be eligible however, there are exceptions for those who are on parental, maternity, paternity, adoption or sick leave.

If one parent is working and the other is in receipt of Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance the family may still qualify.

Summary of main Eligibility Criteria:

  • A child will be aged 3 or 4 Parent/carer will work more than 16 hours per week
  • Parent/carer will have an annual income of less than £100,000
  • The family will live in England
  • The childcare provider is registered with Ofsted

Q4. When can I apply?

The application must be made the term before you wish to start receiving the funding and you can apply up to 16 weeks before your child turns three. 

A child will become eligible for the funding at the start of the school term after their third birthday

Child born between


1st September to 31st December

January – Spring term

1st January  to 31st March

April – Summer term

1st April  to 31st August

September Autumn term


Q5. How do I apply?

Application are assessed by HMRC online, you will need to apply on the Childcare Choices website, see link below:

Childcare choices helpline: 0300 123 4097

Eligible families will receive an 11-digit code which they take to their childcare provider along with the parent’s national insurance number and child's date of birth.  Parents will be asked by HMRC to confirm their details are up to date every 3 months or their code will expire.

 There will be a short grace period with every code in case a parent loses their job, so they do not automatically lose their childcare entitlement.

Q6. What costs isn't covered?

The 30 hours free childcare offer is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables (such as nappies or sun cream), additional hours or additional activities (such as trips). Providers may charge a fee for these additions. If families choose to pay for these it is an arrangement between them and the childcare provider. However, families cannot not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a 30 hours place, and must be offered alternative options.


Q7. Can the free 30 hours be delivered outside of term time?

Eligible parents will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare per week over 38 weeks or the equivalent number of hours across more weeks per year. The Government has said that it wants to ensure parents are given the choice of a ‘stretched offer’ so that the free hours are available outside of term time.  

For example:

  • Standard Term Time offer: Entitlement claimed over 38 weeks
  • Stretched Flexible offer:                45 weeks @ 25 hours per week or

51 weeks @ 22 hours per week

Q8. Have the ratio requirements change under the 30 hours?

The ratios remain the same under the existing adult: child ratios set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Staff qualifications requirements and indoor space requirements will also remain the same for all 30 hours’ provision.

Q9. Are children with special needs or disabilities (SEND) be entitled to additional support?

Yes, there will be additional funding available to support SEN children to have full access to the EYFS. The new Disability Access Fund is equivalent to £615 per child per year to support access to free entitlements. 3 and 4year olds will be eligible for the DAF if they meet the following criteria:

  • The child is in receipt of child disability living allowance and
  • The child receives free early education

Early years providers are responsible for identifying eligible children for DAF.

Q10. What other support will be available to families to help with childcare costs?

Working parents who are eligible for the 30 hours free childcare can additionally receive support with childcare costs of up to £2000 per child through the Tax-Free Childcare scheme.

Parents on low incomes can get up to 85% of their childcare costs reimbursed through the childcare element of Universal Credit, which is gradually being rolled out across the country over the next few years.

Q11. What is the funding rate for providers?

City of Westminster provider rate is £6.80

Q12. Does one provider have to provide all of the 30 hours for each child?

If you have the capacity to do so then you can.  However, if it meets the needs of the family they can seek childcare from up to two providers in a single day.

There are many ways the offer can be delivered for example:

(i)            A single provider could deliver all of the hours

(ii)           A single site with two providers could deliver the hours between them

(iii)          Partners within walking distance could deliver the hours between them

(iv)          Models responding to parental need such as early morning/twilight/weekend provision


Q13. What hours does the childcare need to be available for?

Places should be available to parents between the hours of 7am and 7pm.

The Government would like to see partners working together to provide flexible, high-quality provision that is responsive to children’s needs, including those with disabilities or special educational needs.  This could include offering early morning/twilight or weekend provision in response to parental requirements. 

Q14. Where can I get additional information?

See below:

Childcare Choices

Childcare choices helpline:

0300 123 4097



Bi-borough Childcare & Early Education Service

Family Information Service


Tel:07971 625922

Last Updated 15/01/2021

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