All 3 and 4 year old children in England are entitled to 15 hours of early education and childcare support a week. This is a total of 570 hours, over a minimum of 38 weeks a year, and is known as the Universal Entitlement.
The government has extended the amount of early education and childcare support from 15 hours to 30 hours a week, for children of working families who meet an eligibility criteria. This means that eligible families will be able to access up to a total of 1,140 hours of early education and childcare support, over a minimum of 38 weeks a year. This is known as the extended entitlement.
Question and answers: Early Education and Childcare Support for eligible working families
Am I eligible to receive the extended entitlement?
The extended entitlement is in addition to the universal entitlement, providing an extra 15 hours a week of free childcare, for families that meet the eligibility criteria.
It will be made available to families where:
- You, and any partner, are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family)
- You, and any partner, must each expect to earn (on average) a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at National Living Wage, or if under 25 years of age, the equivalent of 16 hours at National Minimum Wage
- You, and any partner, must individually earn less than £100,000 adjusted net income per year
- The extended entitlement will also be made available to families where:
- both parents are employed but one, or both parents, is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity leave
- both parents are employed but one, or both parents, is temporarily away from the workplace on adoption leave
- both parents are employed but one, or both parents, is temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay
- one parent is employed and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring
- one parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits.
- parents on zero hours contracts will be able to access the extended entitlement if they meet the eligibility criteria
- parents that are newly self-employed (i.e. in a start-up period) do not need to demonstrate that they meet the eligibility criteria for the first 12 months
Where can my child get the extended entitlement?
Childcare providers on the Ofsted Early Years Register can offer the extended entitlement, although they may choose not to. Childcare providers include childminders, day nurseries, playgroups, pre-schools, nursery schools, schools with nursery classes and out-of-school providers. Nannies will not be able to offer the extended entitlement as they are not on the Early Years Ofsted register.
You are able to take up the extended entitlement hours across a maximum of two sites in one day (this includes different types of provision on one site). This is to support the wellbeing of your child by minimising the number of changes experienced in one day.
By setting the limit over one day, you are able to use a combination of childcare providers at different points in the year.
How will I know if a childcare provider will be offering the extended entitlement?
You can find childcare providers, who offer the 30 hours, using the Childcare Search
You should contact the childcare provider of your choice to find out if they are delivering the extended entitlement and if there are places available.
How can the extended entitlement hours be used?
The extended hours can be used as flexibly as possible over the year. There is no requirement for them to be taken on a particular day of the week. However, you will not be able to:
- access more than 10 hours of entitlement a day
- access entitlement hours any time before 6am or after 8pm
- access more than 30 hours of entitlement a week
- access more than 1,140 hours of entitlement a year
Can I use the different childcare offers together?
Childcare Choices can help you understand how the childcare offers work together.
When can my child start to receive the extended entitlement?
Your child can receive the extended working families entitlement the term after both of the following conditions are met (whichever is the later):
- The child's third birthday
- The date you receive an eligibility code from HMRC. You must apply for and receive an eligibility code during the term before your child receives the entitlement. You can apply through Childcare Choices
For example, a parent whose child turns 3 in November applies for a 30 hour code in September. If they receive an eligibility code they will be able to start claiming the entitlement from January (provided that the parent still meets the eligibility criteria in January)
Child born between or date you apply
and receive the 30 hour code (whichever is later):
|Can receive entitlement from|
|1 September to 31 December||January (Spring)|
|1 January to 31 March||April (Summer)|
|1 April to 31 August||September (Autumn)|
Can I get the extended entitlement for a child I foster?
The government has extended eligibility for early education and childcare support to children in foster care where the foster parents meet certain eligibility criteria. Children in foster care will be able to receive the extended entitlement, if the following criteria are met:
- The decision to access the extended hours must be consistent with the child’s care plan (this will be decided by the foster care team)
- In single parent foster families, the foster parent engages in paid work outside their role as a foster parent (there is no minimum earnings limit)
- In two parent foster families, both partners must be engaged 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 meet the eligibility criteria, please refer to “Am I eligible to receive the extended entitlement?" paragraph above.
Further details on how Foster Carers can apply for the extended entitlement are available to download on the Childcare Choices website.
What happens if I no longer meet the eligibility criteria?
If your family no longer meets the eligibility criteria, your child will not immediately lose their childcare place for the extended entitlement. There will be a grace period to give you the opportunity to get new employment. If circumstances change during the grace period, you can reapply again and if eligible your child can continue to receive the extended hours.
The grace period dates can be found below:
Date parent reconfirms
If no longer eligible, grace period end date
1 January – 10 February
11 February – 31 March
1 April – 26 May
27 May – 31 August
1 September – 21 October
22 October – 31 December
After the grace period, if you still do not meet the eligibility criteria, your child will no longer be able to access the extended entitlement. They will still be able to receive the universal 15 hours a week (570 hours a year) of free childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds.
How to apply
Parents wishing to access the extended entitlement for their child can apply through http://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/
|Start receiving the extended entitlement from||You must have obtained a code by:|
|We strongly recommend that you apply in advance of the application deadline, to allow time for any additional evidence required to be checked.|
Tax-Free Childcare Scheme
This is available to eligible working families with children under 12 years old (or under 17 years old if the child has a disability), who meet the eligibility criteria. For more information on the eligibility criteria visit Childcare Choices. With Tax-Free Childcare, parents can get up to £500 every 3 months to help with the cost of childcare. Parents can apply for the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme