Eligibility and how to apply

Is my child eligible?

The additional hours will be available to families where:

  • Both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family);
  • Both parents are working includes circumstances where:
    • One or both parents are temporarily away from the workplace on parental, adoption, maternity or paternity leave;
    • One or both parents are 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; or
    • One parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits.
  • Each parent has a weekly minimum income equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage or living wage (parents do not necessarily need to actually work 16 hours a week, but rather their earnings must reflect at least 16 hours of work at national minimum wage or national living wage), This equates to a minimum income requirement for a parent/carer over the age of 25 of £125.28 a week or for 21 to 24-year-olds of £118.08 a week.
  • Neither parent has an income of more than £100,000 per year.
  • Foster carers are only eligible for the extended entitlement for their own children (if they meet the criteria); they are not eligible for children that they foster.

The definition of 'working' will include employed and self-employed persons and parents on zero hours contracts who meet the criteria.

Many parents have irregular work patterns and the government are keen that the childcare is offered flexible to meet parent's needs. Parents who are studying and grandparents or other family members with parental responsibility for a child aged 3 or 4 will be eligible for the extended entitlement if they meet the above criteria.

Important - if your child is in reception, you can't get free childcare. Once your child is of compulsory school age, they're no longer eligible.

You're not eligible if:

  • you're in receipt of a childcare grant
  • you're a full-time student/an intern
  • you're not entitled to receive public funds.

When and how can you apply?

To apply and claim the funding:

  • complete an online form through the Childcare Service,
  • if you're eligible you will get an eligibility code which you must take to your provider
  • you must reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months after applying (even if you haven't started claiming your extra hours)

You can only claim at the start of each new term, so if you fall eligible during the term you will need to wait until the start of the next to get your extra hours.

Apply now

Please note that by applying for the extra 15 hours free childcare you are agreeing for the local authority to verify your eligibility using the Eligibility Checking System (EMS).

The date your child can start depends on your child's birthday. Your child is eligible:

  • from the term following their third birthday until they reach compulsory school age
  • if they usually live with you – you do not have to be their parent however foster carers are exempt
Child's birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March The beginning of the summer term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August The beginning of the autumn term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December The beginning of the spring term on or after 1 January

When can I apply?

Age of child When does my child's 30 hours start Recommended apply date Take your code to your provider (Deadline)
3 or 4 on or before 31 March 2019 April 2019 Apply from January 2019 By 31 March 2019

3 or 4 on or before 31 August 2019

September 2019 Apply from April 2019 By 31 August 2019

3 or 4 on or before 31 December 2019

January 2020 Apply from September 2019 By 31 December 2019

Reconfirm your eligibility

If you have applied and/or have claimed up to 30 hours of free childcare, you must reconfirm your eligibility. You must do this even if your child hasn't started their 30 hours place. You must do this 3 months from the date you applied to receive their extra hours. You must do this every 3 months.

Find out here how to reconfirm your eligibility. 

Access your childcare account

If you are having trouble accessing your account or cannot recall how to do it, see our guidance on signing into your childcare account. It also explains where to find your eligibility code. 

What to do if you have lost your 30 hours eligibility code

Find out here how to access your Governement Gateway account and retrieve your 30 hours eligibility code if you have already applied for 30 hours free childcare and/ or Tax-Free Childcare through the childcare service.