Financial support

30 hours free early education for eligible 3 and 4 year olds

From 1 September 2017, the Government will be extending the free childcare entitlement for eligible working parents of 3 and 4 year-olds, to 30 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.


In order to qualify, both parents must be working (or sole parent in a lone-parent family) and each parent earns on average:

  • a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum Wage if aged under 25 or National Living Wage if aged over 25
  • less than £100,000 per year

You could still be eligible if you meet one of the following:

  • both parents are working (as above) and in receipt of tax credits and/or universal credit
  • one or both parents are temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave
  • one or both parents are in receipt of statutory sick pay
  • one or both parents is employed and one parent is in receipt of carers allowance (or receives the carer element of Universal Credit)
  • one parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated (based on specific benefits).

You do not need to work 16 hours per week, but your earnings must equal at least 16 hours work at national minimum wage/living wage. This equates to a minimum income for a parent/carer over the age of 25 of £115.20 a week or for 21-24 year olds of £107.20 a week.

A parent will be eligible if they expect to earn this amount over the coming three months.

Parent means a person who has parental responsibility of the child. In cases where a parent has remarried or is living with a new partner, the ‘step-parent’ must also meet the earning threshold.

Foster carers are only eligible for the extended entitlement for their own children, if they meet the criteria.


If you are eligible for the extended entitlement, you can take up to 1,140 hours free childcare across the year. This can be taken term time only or stretched across the year as follows:

  • up to 30 hours per week across 38 weeks a year, term time only.
  • up to 23.7 hours per week across 48 weeks per year
  • up to 22.5 hours per week across 51 weeks of the year

Not all providers may be able to offer the stretched offer, the full 30 hours per week or the particular pattern of provision that parents require however you can split the entitlement across two providers.

If hours over the 30 hours are used, providers can charge for the additional hours.

Out of school care and school-run after school clubs

It is for a school to decide what services to offer, and whether it would be appropriate for 3 & 4 year olds to join care and activities that are already in place.

How do I apply?

The additional hours will be available from September 2017. You can apply through HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

If eligible, HMRC will issue a voucher code for you to take to the childcare provider.

You will need to re-confirm eligibility every three months via the HMRC. If your situation changes, you will receive notice within six weeks or half a term.

During this time, your child will keep the additional hours. Eligibility will be checked again at the end of this period, and if still not eligible, you will no longer receive the additional hours.

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