We are in the process of replacing our Citizen Portal with a new one. You will need to create a new account the first time you log in to our new Education Portal. Please view this page for more information.
Early education funding for 3-and-4-year-olds
15 hours early education funding - who is eligible and how do I apply?
All 3 and 4-year-olds can get 570 hours of free childcare per year. It can be taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, or you may choose to ‘stretch’ your hours by taking less hours over more weeks.
This 15 hours of free childcare is known as universal funding and is available from the term after your child turns 3. You do not need to apply for universal funding but you do need to speak to your childcare provider and complete a parent declaration form to secure your child’s place and hours.
If you need help choosing childcare, view the finding childcare page.
30 hours early education funding - who is eligible and how do I apply?
Working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds may be entitled to up to 30 hours of childcare for 38 weeks of the year, or you may choose to ‘stretch’ your hours by taking less hours over more weeks. This is an additional 15 hours of childcare on top of the universal 15 hours that all 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to.
As with the universal funding, the additional hours are available from the term after your child turns 3.
You can apply up to 16 weeks before your child turns three so that you have time to confirm your child’s place with the childminder, pre-school or nursery they will attend.
You can use the 30 hours childcare in a range of ways – with up to a maximum of two early years settings per day. View the top tips on using your 30 hours childcare to find out more.
To check if you are eligible and to apply, you must go to the Childcare Choices website and create an account.
You must apply the term before your child turns 3 to ensure they are funded from the start of the following term. If you miss the deadline you will need to wait until the following term to be funded for the additional hours, but will still be able to use the universal 15 hours.
If you are eligible, the online system will send you an eligibility code which you must take to your childcare provider to secure your funded place. Not all childcare providers offer the full 30 hour entitlement – If you need help choosing childcare, view the finding childcare page.
How will this funded childcare affect my tax credits?
If you are eligible for 30 hours of funded childcare, this will reduce your monthly childcare costs and is therefore likely to impact on other benefits/tax credits you might be receiving. For more information about what is the best option for you, use the childcare calculator.
What is a grace period?
Although the universal 15 hours is available until your child starts school, you have to log into your Childcare Account to reconfirm your eligibility for the additional 15 hours (i.e. the full 30 hours) every three months. You should receive an email/text message from the HMRC application system to remind you to do this.
If you do not reconfirm in time, you will fall into the grace period. That means your funding will end after a few more weeks – you can find out when by logging into your Childcare Account or checking with your childcare provider.
When you are in the grace period you cannot start your child in an early years setting using the funding, but if your child is already in an early years setting, the funding will continue until the end date of the grace period.
You must reconfirm your code before the end of the grace period or the additional 15 hours funding will stop. This means you will have to pay for any hours your child is cared for above the universal 15 hours and reapply for the full 30 hours to start from the beginning of the following term which can leave you with a significant gap in funded hours.
The council does not have any funding to cover childcare hours if you do not renew your code in time.
Extending 30 hours to children in foster care
From September 2018 the eligibility for 30 Hours will be extended to children in foster care where the foster parents meet certain eligibility criteria, giving foster families the same support as other families where it is right for the child.
Children in foster care will be able to receive 30 Hours Free Childcare, if the following criteria are met:
- That accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan, placing the child at the centre of the process and decision-making,
- That in single parent foster families, the foster parent engages in paid work outside their role as a foster parent
- In two parent foster families, both partners engage in paid work outside their role as a foster parent. If one partner is not a foster parent then they must be in qualifying paid work and earn a minimum of the equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum/national living wage.
The application process for foster children will be managed through the local authority and foster parents will need to speak to the child’s social worker to initiate this.
Depending on your income and family situation, you could be eligible for additional support to help pay your childcare costs. View the help with childcare costs page to find out more or go to the Childcare Choices website. You can also use the childcare calculator to find out what help you could be entitled to and to help you decide what options suit your family best.