Help with childcare costs

Funded childcare for working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds

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Eligible working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to up to 30 hours of free childcare and early education per week, for 38 weeks of the year. Key points to note:

  • you do not have to use the full 30 hours each week
  • childcare providers might allow you to spread the free hours across the year. For example, if a provider is open 51 weeks of the year, they could offer you 22.25 funded hours a week
  • childcare providers do not have to offer the 30 free hours and not all providers will
  • you can claim up to 30 free hours between up to three providers – but you cannot claim hours at more than two sites in a day

You can claim the 30 hours entitlement from the term after your child’s third birthday. Terms start on 1 January, 1 April and 1 September. 

You can continue to receive the 30 hours until your child reaches statutory school age or attends school in reception class (Year R).

Eligibility criteria

To check the full eligibility criteria and exceptions to eligibility visit HMRC's Childcare Choices website (link opens in new window).

How do I apply?

You need to apply for the 30 hours via HMRC’s Childcare Choices website (link opens in new window). If you do not have access to the internet, you can call the Childcare Service Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.

You can apply for the 30 hours up to 16 weeks before your child becomes eligible.

If you do not apply before the start of the term you want to start claiming the 30 hours, you will not be able to receive the free hours that term. It is important that you apply in advance to ensure you get your entitlement.