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Funded childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

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Who is eligible for 15 hours childcare?
How to apply to 15 hours childcare
When does 15 hours childcare start?
Who is eligible for 30 hours childcare?
When to apply for 30 hours childcare
Issues applying for 30 hours funding 

Who is eligible for 15 hours childcare?

All 3 and 4 year old children are eligible for 15 hours of funded childcare.

You could get up to 30 hours funded childcare in total if you and your partner (if you have one) work full or part-time hours.

  • You could still be eligible, even if you're on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or if you're unable to work. 
  • Check the full eligibility criteria to find out if you can claim.
  • If you're a foster carer who works and you meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for 30 hours funded childcare.

How to apply for 15 hours funded childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

Speak to your childcare provider; they will apply for the childcare funding on your behalf.

We advise you to contact your chosen childcare provider the term before you want to use the funding to book your child's place in good time. They will ask you to sign a parental agreement confirming how many hours you want to claim. The funding terms and conditions are listed on the parental agreement. 

You'll need to apply online if you're claiming extra hours under the 30 hours funded childcare scheme.

How you use 15 hours of childcare

You can get up to 15 hours of funded childcare for 38 weeks of the year. Some childcare providers may allow you to use your funded hours over more weeks by using fewer hours each week. Speak to your chosen childcare provider to find out if you can spread the funding over more weeks.

Some providers may not offer 15 hours funded childcare, or they may only be able to offer limited hours. This could be due to available places or their opening times.

You can use the 15 hours at more than one childcare provider. 

Working parents may be able to get an additional 15 hours a week. This could be up to 30 hours funded childcare in total. 

The funding doesn't cover the cost of additional services or items and your childcare provider may charge extra for these. These could be:

  • Lunch
  • Nappies
  • Trips
  • Music classes

Even so, you must not be asked to pay a fee as a condition of taking up a 15 hours place, and must be offered alternative options such as choosing to provide your own child's lunch, for example. 

When will the funded 15 hours childcare start?

You can get 15 hours funded childcare the term after your child's third birthday. This means it would start either in January, April or September. 

You can continue to claim the funding until your child starts school. If you choose to defer your child's school place, you can continue to claim until your child reaches compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). 

What types of childcare can I use with the funding?

You can only use the funded childcare funding with registered or approved childcare providers who offer early education funding. This includes:

  • Childminders
  • Pre-schools, playgroups and nurseries
  • Out-of-school clubs
  • Home care workers working for a registered home care agency

Can you claim other childcare funding at the same time?

If you're eligible, you can claim through other funding schemes at the same time, including:

Find out which funding schemes work best for your family with the online childcare calculator

Who is eligible for 30 hours childcare?

You could get up to 30 hours funded childcare in total if you and your partner (if you have one) work full or part-time hours.

You could still be eligible, even if you're on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or if you're unable to work. 

Check the full eligibility criteria to find out if you can claim.

If you're a foster carer who works and you meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for 30 hours funded childcare.

How you use 30 hours of childcare

You can get up to 30 hours of funded childcare for 38 weeks of the year. Some childcare providers may allow you to use your funded hours over more weeks by using fewer hours each week. Speak to your chosen childcare provider to find out if you can spread the funding over more weeks.

Some providers may not offer 30 hours funded childcare, or they may only be able to offer a few extra hours. This could be due to available places or their opening times.

You can use your funded hours with more than one childcare provider. 

The funding doesn't cover the cost of additional services or items and your childcare provider may charge extra for these. These could be:

  • Lunch
  • Nappies
  • Trips
  • Music classes

Even so, you must not be asked to pay a fee as a condition of taking up a 30 hours place, and must be offered alternative options such as choosing to provide your own child's lunch, for example. 

What types of childcare can I use with the funding?

You can only use the funded childcare funding with registered or approved childcare providers who offer early education funding. This includes:

  • Childminders
  • Pre-schools, playgroups and nurseries
  • Out-of-school clubs
  • Home care workers working for a registered home care agency

You can't use the funding with a childcare provider if they're your child's relative. Relative means the child's:

  • Grandparent
  • Aunt or uncle
  • Brother or sister

When to apply for 30 hours childcare

You can get up to 30 hours funded childcare the term after your child's third birthday if you're eligible and apply before the deadline. This means it would start either in January, April or September. 

You can continue to claim the funding for funded childcare until your child starts school. If you choose to defer your child's school place, you can continue to claim until your child reaches compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). 

 Must be 3 years old by: Date child is eligible for funding from Recommended time to apply
 31 December  1 January (spring term)  15 October - 30 November
 31 March  1 April (summer term)  15 January - 28 February
 31 August  1 September (autumn term)  15 June - 31 July

You can apply for funded childcare funding for 3 and 4 year olds 16 weeks before your child's third birthday. We recommend you apply no more than 3 months before you're eligible to claim.

You must apply in good time to take your eligibility code to your childcare provider before the deadline. Many parents applying for 30 hours funded childcare will get a reply straightaway to say if they're eligible. Some parents will need to provide more information for their application.

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

Once you have obtained a code take this to your chosen childcare provider

Reconfirm your 30 hours eligibility

You must reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months if you're claiming 30 hours' funded childcare. You must do this 3 months from the date you applied, even if you haven't started claiming. 

Can you claim other funding at the same time?

If you're eligible, you can claim through other funding schemes at the same time, including:

Find out which funding schemes work best for your family with the online childcare calculator.

Issues applying for 30 hours funding

Contact the HMRC childcare funding helpline if you're having difficulties with:

  • Applying for 15 hours funded childcare for working families of 2 year olds
  • Applying for 30 hours funded childcare and/or Tax-Free Childcare
  • Reconfirming your eligibility for 30 hours funded childcare and/or Tax-Free Childcare