30 Hours Free Childcare - extended hours for 3 and 4 year olds

Additional 570 extended hours of free early years funding for eligible children

On top of the ‘universal’ entitlement of 570 hours of free early years education (which is available to all children), children aged 3 and 4 may also be able to benefit from an additional (‘extended’) 570 hours.

Working parents of 3-and 4-year olds who are eligible will be able to apply for up to another 15 hours of early years education or childcare per week for 38 weeks. This is called the ‘extended’ entitlement.

In total there are 1,140 free hours in the child’s funded year that are available and can be ‘stretched’ over more weeks to help for example cover some school holidays:

  • 51 week provides around 22 hours each week
  • 38 weeks provides 30 hours each week.
Eligibility criteria for additional 570 hours of free early years education/ childcare

The eligibility for the additional 570 hours of free early years education/childcare is similar to the requirements of working parents who apply for Tax-Free Childcare (TFC), except this funding is only for 3-and 4-year olds.

The Government has stated that eligibility for 30 hours cannot start until both the following conditions have been met:

  • The child must be age eligible for the “universal” free entitlement hours and
  • It is the term following receipt of the parent’s  eligibility code from HMRC the start date for the first claim applies to whichever is the later
The Childcare Service and the Childcare Calculator

The Childcare Service is the joint Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) and 30 Hours service through which parents can:

  • apply and (re)confirm their eligibility for the free additional 570 hours (’30 Hours’) and TFC
  • have a childcare account to make payments to childcare providers for TFC
  • get their 30 Hours free childcare eligibility code (unique code for each child)

The Childcare Calculator is a useful tool which provides information to parents about the types of childcare funding support available. This is the first place to go before making any applications for childcare funding.

To apply for the additional 570 hours of free early years education/childcare (’30 Hours Childcare’) go to the Government’s Childcare Choices online childcare service.

Parents can only make applications for the additional hours directly to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) through the online service. For assistance with the online application contact the helpline on 0300 123 4097.

Once an application is made HMRC will notify parents of the need to reconfirm their working status every 3 months so that they remain eligible to have the free additional 570 hours ('30 Hours') and TFC.

Applying for the additional 570 hours of free early years education/childcare

Parents can apply up to 16 weeks before their child is eligible to take up their extended entitlement. If a parent is starting work for the first time (and therefore will no longer be receiving welfare benefits) then they need to apply 2 weeks before their employment start date. It is recommended that parents seek advice from their Job Centre work coach or contact the Childcare Service helpline before making their online application as welfare benefits will automatically stop once an application is submitted.

Some applications may require HMRC to carry out additional checks so it may take 10 – 15 days to receive the eligibility code. It is therefore important for parents not to leave their application to the last minute.

Parents access their eligibility code from their childcare account. See details of how to do this.

When eligibility is confirmed, parents will be notified of the dates that the eligibility runs from and to.

Eligibility dates are not the same as the dates that the funding can be claimed.

To claim funding, parents must have their eligibility confirmed by the HMRC for the extended 15 hour entitlement by:

  • 31 August, to start on 1 September, or
  • 31 December, to start on 1 January, or
  • 31 March, to start on 1 April

Parents will need to present their 11 digit eligibility code from their childcare account to their child’s childcare provider in order to arrange the additional hours. Parents will also need to provide their National Insurance number and child's date of birth if they have not done so already.

The childcare provider will confirm to the parent whether the code is valid using an online portal provided by the local authority.

The additional hours will be agreed between the parent and the childcare provider and the date that the child can start accessing these hours.

If the parent’s working status should change, for example the parent is made redundant; the child can continue to have the additional free hours until the parent is asked to reconfirm their status by HMRC. There will be a ‘grace period’ after reconfirming which allows for changes to the working status such as the parent starting another job.

Need help applying for the extended entitlement of additional 570 free hours (‘30 Hours’)

For help with the Government’s Childcare Service online application contact their helpline on 0300 123 4097.

Need help in finding early years education and childcare providers

In order to find out which childminders, nurseries and pre-schools offer early years extended entitlement hours (‘30 Hours Childcare’) find them on the Family Information and Services Hub.

If you need further help in finding a childcare service contact 0300 5551384 or email [email protected]

Reconfirming your eligibility for 30 hours free childcare and/or Tax-Free Childcare

If you have applied and/or claimed up to 30 hours of free childcare and/or Tax-Free Childcare, you must reconfirm your eligibility. You must do this even if your child has not started their 30 hours place. Confirmation must be done 3 months from the date you applied to receive the extra hours, then every 3 months after.

You will receive a text and/or email 4 weeks before your reconfirmation deadline. This will prompt you to log into your Childcare Service account and go to 'secure messages' to access your reconfirmation date. You can reconfirm your eligibility up to 4 weeks before your reconfirmation date.

The reconfirmation process may differ for some parents. Such as if:

  • your circumstances have not changed you will need to tick a box to confirm this. You will not receive a new code but the existing one will get extended for 3 more months
  • your circumstances have changed you must amend and resubmit your details
  • you completed your original application over the phone. You will need to phone the Customer Service Centre to reconfirm your eligibility
  • you currently have a temporary code (these start with 11) you must complete a new application through your online childcare service account to get a permanent code

If you miss the reconfirmation deadline, or if your circumstances change, you will get a message to say your eligibility has ended. You will be able to keep your childcare place for the ‘grace period’, but then the additional funded hours will stop so you need to discuss with your childcare provider what will happen next.

If you become eligible again for 30 hours or Tax-Free Childcare you will need to submit a new application. You will also need to present your new eligibility code to your provider for validation and to make childcare arrangements.

Further Information