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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 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 some providers will offer stretched hours across the year.  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,or the term after you receive your eligibility code-whichever is later, 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 between January 2019 and March 2019 you will need to apply for an eligibility code before 31 December 2018.  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 2019 please check that the dates between your start date and end date cover 1 January 2019.

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.

 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 still be entitled to the universal 15-hour entitlement, but will lose the extended 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

Childcare Choices

3/4 year old funding (15 hours).

Free education for 2 year olds


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