30 hours free childcare: what parents need to know
Understanding how the 30 hours free childcare scheme can benefit you
From September 2017 the government is offering working parents of 3-4 year olds across England 30 hours of free childcare – rather than the current 15.
Not everyone is eligible, but even if you're not, you will still receive the current 15 hours.
- Both parents must be working or the sole parent must be working.
- Both parents (or sole parent) needs to earn more than the equivalent of 16 hours at the national minimum, or living wage per week –that’s £120 per week for everyone aged 25 or older and £112.80 for 21-24 year olds.
- You don’t have to work for 16 hours a week, just a long as you earn the equivalent of the above for the hours you do work.
- And both parents must earn less than £100,000 a year.
- If you’re a lone parent, living with a partner you must both meet the above criteria – this applies if you have remarried or started living with a new partner who is not the child’s parent.
When will my child be eligible?
From the term after your child turns three or the term after you receive your eligibility code – whichever is later.
For example, if your child turns three on 25 March, and you apply for the 30-hours on 27 March, your child will be eligible for a place from 1 April (i.e. the start of the spring term).
However, if your child turns three on 25 March but you don’t apply for the 30 hours until 5 April, your child won’t be eligible for a place until 1 September (i.e. the start of the autumn term).
How do I apply?
You can apply for the 30-hour offer and the Tax-Free Childcare via the online Childcare Choices website.
The applications ask for your details including National Insurance Number and confirm whether you think you’ll meet the income eligibility requirements over the next three months. You’ll be required to provide this same information for your partner too and you’ll need to reconfirm your eligibility via a reminder text every three months. Make sure you do this and be aware that if you give false information about your eligibility you could be fined up to £3,000.
If you are eligible, you will receive an 11-digit code that you give to your childcare provider, along with your child’s birth certificate and your National Insurance Number.
Will all nurseries offer the free 30 hours?
Many will but some are choosing not to offer the free places because they say the money the government gives them (£4.00 per hour) is not enough and that the actual cost of the nursery providing childcare is nearer to £4.53 and hour).
Will I be charged for extras?
Possibly as nurseries can charge or ask for contributions. The government funding only covers the delivery of education and care so you may be asked to pay for lunch (you might have the option of providing lunch yourself if they have food storage facilities). Some nurseries in the trial schemes asked parents to pay a voluntary donation of £5 per day to top-up their funding.
If you have a baby or other children under 3 in the nursery watch out for prices increases and some nurseries may be looking to charge more for younger children to help subsidise the cost of them providing free childcare to the 3-4 year olds.
You might also like to read:
• 7 things to know about tax free childcare
• Grandparents and childcare
• Choosing childcare
• Childcare benefits