Skip to main content

Free 30 hours early education and childcare for working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds

 Free 30 hours early education and childcare for working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds.

All 3 and 4-year-olds are currently entitled to 15 hours a week of free early education.  From 1 September 2017, eligible working parents can claim an additional 15 hours of free early education and childcare per week, for 38 weeks of the year.

If you are eligible you can use the full 30 hours every week for 38 weeks or stretch the hours across the year, if your childcare provider allows you to do this.  This means that you will use fewer hours each week, but it will cover more weeks in the year.

The entitlement starts from the term after your child’s third birthday and can continue until your child starts in their reception class at school.  If you are eligible and you wish your child to take up a place with a childcare provider in September 2017 you will need to apply before the 31 August 2017.  You will need to reconfirm your eligibility every three months prior to the end date of your code.  To ensure you have an eligible code from January 2018 please check that the dates between your start date and end date cover 1 January 2018.

Who is eligible for the additional 30 hours?

Your eligibility to claim the additional 30 hours is based upon you and your child meeting the following criteria:

  • Your child must be over 3 years old when they take the place at a childcare provider
  • Your child must be under compulsory school age
  • Both parents must be working (or the sole parent in a lone parent family)
  • Each parent aged 25 or over must earn, on average, at least £120 a week (the equivalent to 16 hours at National Living Wage)
  • Each parent aged 24 or younger must earn, on average, at least the equivalent of 16 hours at National Minimum Wage.

This means as a 21-24 year old you will earn over £112.80 a week
As an 18-20 year old you will earn over £89.60 a week
For under 18s you will earn over £64.80 a week

  • Parents on an apprenticeship (age 19 or under) must earn at least £56 a week
  • Parents must earn less than £100,000 each per year.

Please note, eligibility is based on income earned, not the number of hours worked.

Exceptions to the eligibility criteria

Families where one parent does not work (or neither parent works) will not usually be eligible, unless:

  • Both parents are employed, but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave or on statutory sick pay
  • One parent is employed and one parent either has substantial caring responsibilities, based on specific benefits received for caring
  • One parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated, based on the receipt of specific benefits

How do I apply?

You can apply for 30 hours of free early education and childcare through the Childcare Choices website.

Although you can check your eligibility at any point during the year, there are distinct cut off dates for using the eligibility to access funding.  For the period between September and December 2017 the cut off date for gaining eligibility to access funding is 14 September 2017.  To access the funding for the period between January and March 2018, you will need to apply for eligibility prior to 31 December 2017.  You only need to apply for the code prior to these dates to use the funding.  You can give the code to a childcare provider after this date and access funding in the time period noted above. 

 What happens if I lose eligibility?

  • If you lose your eligibility you will receive a ‘grace period’ – this means you will be able to keep your childcare for a short period
  • Once the ‘grace period’ has lapsed, your child will be entitled to the universal 15-hour entitlement

For further information on help with the cost of childcare and participating providers contact the Family Information Service on 01634 332195 or email

Other Details

Related links

Free funding parent toolkit

Childcare Choices

3/4 year old funding (15 hours).

Free education for 2 year olds


Back to top