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30 hours early education and childcare for three and four-year-olds

All three and four-year-old children are entitled to a universal early education place, which provides up to 570 hours of free nursery education per year.  

Children in some families are now be entitled to an additional 15 hours of free childcare, otherwise known as the 30 Hours Childcare or Extended Entitlement.

  Hear more from families who have benefited from 30 hours here:

Family Case Studies

Want to find out if you’re eligible and apply for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare? Watch this video for step-by-step guidance on what you need to apply. Visit to learn more.

Is my child eligible for the 30 hours childcare?

You may be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare if your circumstances are as follows:

  • Both parents are earning 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 (around £6,240 per year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112.80 (around £5,800 per year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old
  • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on a zero hours contract
  • 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 a non-EEA national, the parent must have recourse to public funds.

Who will not qualify?

A parent will not meet the criteria when:

  • 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)

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 child will be entitled to the universal 15 hour entitlement.

How do I apply?

  • Parents must apply directly to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) not the Local Authority or the Childcare Provider
  • Parents can now apply for places either through an online application system via the Childcare Choices website: and click on section 4: ‘Apply or sign in to the childcare service as a parent’. 

     Or by phone at the Customer Interaction Centre (which should also be used if you have any queries):

     Tel: 0300 123 4097

In order to apply you will need the following to hand for you and (if relevant) your partner:

  • your National Insurance number
  • if you're self-employed, your Unique Taxpayer Reference

You're sent a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) when you first register for Self Assessment. Your UTR is on notices to file a tax return or payment reminders sent to you by HM Revenue and Customs. Look for a 10-digit number, sometimes with a letter 'K' on the end. It's sometimes just called 'tax reference':

  • the date you started, or are due to start work
  • details of any other government support you get

     The application process for the 30 hours extended free entitlement and Tax Free Childcare will be aligned so a parent need only apply once to HMRC for both schemes:

  • If eligible, HMRC will set up a secure account for parents and the parent will receive an eligibility code to their secure account.

Have you already set up an account and are trouble accessing it?  If so, please download the 'Accessing Your Childcare Account' guidance on the right.

  • There will be an eligibility code per parent / child combination, therefore multiple birth siblings will each have their own code
  • Parents will take their code to an approved childcare provider or school nursery of their choice to show they are eligible for the additional 15 hours’ free childcare.  Your early years provider will also need to see a copy of your child’s birth certificate (if not already [provided) and will ask you to sign a declaration form
  • Your childcare provider will then validate your code and allocate your place
  • For children who may be eligible from September 2019, parents will need to apply for a 30 Hours funded place by 31 July 2019.

Providers are funded on a termly basis and eligible children need to be accessing their place by headcount data each term in order for the funding to be accessed.  Please contact your providers to clarify this data but if your child is attending from the beginning of each term they are likely to be there on this termly date.

When should I apply?

You can apply from when your child is 2 years and 36 weeks old.   

When your child turns 3 

When they can get 30 hours from

Recommended time to apply

1 September to 31 December

1 January

15 October to 30 November

1 January to 31 March

1 April

15 January to 28 February

1 April to 31 August

1 September

15 June to 31 July


You can apply outside of these recommended dates but you might not receive your code in time.

You must have a valid code by the end of the month before a new term starts.

You have to reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. If you apply more than 3 months before the term starts, you’ll have to reconfirm your eligibility in your account in order to keep your code valid.

How do I confirm my eligibility every 3 months?

  • HMRC will manage the application process and send out reminders to parents about the need to reconfirm their eligibility.  Parents should receive two reminders to reconfirm (4 weeks and 2 weeks before their reconfirmation deadline).  If a parent’s details have not changed, they only need to tick a box in their childcare service account to confirm their details remain the same.
  • If a parent misses the reconfirmation deadline, they will receive a message telling them that they are no longer eligible for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare.
  • The eligibility code for a parent / child combination will not change over time even if its validity lapses and a new application is submitted.
  • If a parent’s circumstances change and they are no longer eligible for the additional 15 hours of free childcare, a ‘grace period’ will apply so that children can continue with their free place for a short period of time, whilst alternate arrangements can be made.
  • If a parent’s circumstances change again whilst they are in the grace period, they may reapply to HMRC and become eligible again.
  • If you are no longer eligible, you can still access the 15-hour universal early education entitlement for 3 and 4-year-olds. 
  • For parents who are taking up a 30 hour place this term, you will need to reconfirm in order to access a 30 hour place from June 2019.  You are able to do this this through your childcare service account, even if you miss your reconfirmation deadline.

When can my child access these additional hours?

The term from which a child can access their extended entitlement is the same as the terms for children accessing the 15-hour universal entitlement

The table below shows when a child becomes eligible:

A child born between

…is eligible for an extended entitlement place…

1 April and 31 August

From the start of the autumn term (September to December) following their third birthday until statutory school age.

1 September and 31 December

From the start of the spring term (January to March) following their third birthday until statutory school age.

1 January and 31 March

From the start of the summer term (April to August) following their third birthday until statutory school age.

Other FAQs

Does my child have to take up the full 30 hours?

It is the parents’ choice whether you wish to take up the full extended entitlement and this should be discussed with your chosen provider.  You may be attending a provider who provides all year round care and therefore the entitlement will be stretched over the full number of weeks that the provider operates.

Can I share my 30 hours across more than one childcare provider?

You can use the additional 15 hours a week for your child to attend a breakfast club, after school club or with a childminder.


How flexibly can I use my 30 hours childcare and can I use it across more than one provider?

Your child is entitled to access up to 30 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, which is equivalent of a total of 1140 hours per year.  This entitlement can be stretched over the full number of weeks a provider is open.  You may be able to choose a different pattern of attendance depending on which school / childcare provider you choose to use.

There are some conditions related to flexibility

  • no session is to be longer than 10 hours
  • no minimum session length (subject to the requirements of registration on the Ofsted Early Years Register)
  • not before 6:00am or after 8:00pm

Your first choice of school/childcare provider might not be able to offer the full 30 hours.  In that case you can nominate up to three childcare providers for the delivery of their entitlement, but the government has set a maximum of two sites that can be used in a single day to deliver the childcare.

You are also able to use the 15 hours’ extra hours before and after school and during school holidays, again depending on which school / childcare provider may offer this and you choose to use (including childminders).

Do all school and childcare providers have to deliver the 30 hours free childcare?

It is not the law nor compulsory for schools or childcare providers to offer the additional 15 hours over and above the current 15 hours’ entitlement for all 3 and 4 year olds.  It is the school / childcare providers’ individual choice whether they provide places for the additional 15 hours, not the choice of the Royal Borough.

The local authority has a duty to ensure your child can access a place but such places cannot be guaranteed at a particular provider.

The local authority provides support and guidance to schools and providers to enable them to do so if they wish.

There may be good reasons why the School/ Provider does not offer the additional 15 hours:

  • They may not have any spare nursery places for 3 & 4 year olds or the capacity to create new places or operate for longer hours.
  • Some schools / childcare providers that already offer a flexible choice for parents may review what they currently provide and feel the impact of changing what they offer to include the additional 15 hours free childcare would be detrimental to their current service.
  • There may be a cost / sustainability factor for them to take into consideration.

Any provider wishing to participate in the extended entitlement will be encouraged to do so and will be added to the directory of participating providers.

Last Updated 06/01/2022

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