The rules surrounding free childcare funding in the UK can be confusing. You may have heard of the Government schemes for ’30 hours of free childcare’, or ’15 hours free funding’. However, different age groups each have their own separate rules surrounding eligibility. In view of the complexities involved, we have put together a rough guide for early years age groups, to help clarify things. This should be useful for those looking for nursery and pre-school places for 2 to 4 year olds in particular. We’ll take each age group in turn:
Free childcare funding for 2 year olds
You may be eligible for up to 15 hours of free childcare funding for 2 year olds if you live in England and …
- are receiving Income Support;
- receive the guaranteed element of Pension Credit;
- are receiving Income-based Job Seekers Allowance;
- receive Income-related Employment & Support Allowance;
- are receiving Universal Credit and your annual household income is no more than £15,400 after tax, excluding benefits;
- receive Tax Credits and your annual household income is no more than £16,190 before tax;
- are receiving the Working Tax Credit “4 week run-on” (payments you receive when your eligibility for Working Tax Credit ceases).
You may also be eligible if your 2 year old:
- is subject to an Education, Health & Care plan;
- has a statement of special educational needs;
- is no longer in care following a special guardianship order, an adoption order or a child arrangements order;
- receives a Disability Living Allowance;
- is cared for by a local authority.
Separate rules apply for those who are non-EEA citizens who also cannot claim benefits.
15 hours free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds
For English nationals, 3 and 4 year old children are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week, for 38 weeks per year. That equates to 570 hours per year but it can only be used in conjunction with an approved childcare provider like Little Cedars Day Nursery in Streatham. 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for this until they start school in reception year, or reach compulsory schooling age if that’s later. Eligibility does not depend on income or the parents’/guardians’ work situation. Parents can start benefiting from the funding from the 1st of January, the 1st of April or the 1st of September after their child’s third birthday. Ask your local nursery, pre-school or council for more details.
30 hours free childcare funding
In addition to the above, 3 and 4 year olds may be eligible for an additional 15 hours of free childcare, taking the total to 30 hours a week, if certain criteria are met …
- You can apply for the additional 15 hours of free childcare , bringing it to a total of 30 hours, at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, Tax Credits, Childcare Vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare.
- If you are currently not working, you may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Employment & Support Allowance.
- You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.
Earning criteria for working parent/parents/partners:
- You must be working as a single parent or part of a couple that both work.
- You must earn more than the weekly equivalent of 16 hours at the National Living Wage or Minimum Wage.
- Neither of you can be earning a net income of more than £100,000, including any bonuses.
Learn more about eligibility here. If you feel that you do not quite meet these earnings criteria, it may still be worth enquiring as other conditions can sometimes apply. For example, a couple may still be eligible if one earns enough but the other is either a carer, is not well, is on parental leave, annual leave or sick leave. Another example is where a parent is self-employed, having started their business in the 12 months immediately prior to their application.
How to apply for 30 hours funding:
You can apply for the 30 hours funding through the Government website. You will need to go online and set up a childcare account. To do this you will need your National Insurance number (and, if you have a partner, their National Insurance number). If you are self-employed, also have your Unique Taxpayer Reference code (‘UTR’) at the ready. The online process will take about 20 minutes and it could take around 7 days to find out if you are eligible. Let us know if you need help with your application and we’ll be pleased to assist.
Other Government childcare funding schemes
You can also read our separate guide on free childcare funding available through Universal Credit and our Guide to the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme (click the bold links).
Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery & pre-school, Streatham
If you have any difficulties or have any queries regarding childcare funding, please get in touch with us. We can guide you through the process if you need help with your application. Feel free to call us on 0208 677 9675 too, or email us here and we’ll be happy to help!
Little Cedars is a day nursery and pre-school in Streatham, SW16 1TU. We’re very conveniently located for those searching for childcare in or near Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham in the London Borough of Wandsworth.
This is a rough guide only, so always check with us, or your local council. Additional costs such as food, outings and nappies are not funded by the Government, so potentially allow extra.