30 Hours Free Childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

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The universal entitlement for all 3 and 4 years olds is 15 hours per week for 38 weeks (570 hours) of early education.

The extended entitlement provides an additional 15 hours for children where parents are eligible.

The 30 hour free childcare extended entitlement is for working families in England.

Free childcare or early education will be for 38 weeks, a total of 1,140 hours per year, that you can use flexibily with one or more childcare providers.

Some childcare providers will allow you to stretch the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week.


Is my child entitled?

Parents of 3 and 4 year olds will need to meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for 30 hours:

  • They earn or expect to earn the equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum or Living Wage over the coming 3 months.

  • This equates to £120 a week (or £ 6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112.80 a week (or £5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old.

  • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on zero hours contract.

  • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work.

  • Where one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or if they are on statutory sick leave.

  • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work.

  • Where a parent is in a start-up period (i.e. they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months

  • If a non-EEA national. the parent must have recourse to public funds

*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 NMW or NLW.

When should I apply?

When your child turns 3 When they can get 30 hours from Recommended time to apply
1 January to 31 March  Start of the summer term (April)  15 January to 28 February
1 April to 31 August  Start of the autumn term (September)  15 June to 31 July
1 September to 31 December  Start of the spring term (January)  15 October to 30 November

You can apply up to 20 weeks before the term following your child's third birthday. You must have the application made the term before you will be receiving the entitlement.

Eligibility checking process

Parents will be asked by HMRC to register with them to check if they are entitled to a 30 hour free childcare place.  Parents will then be given an eligibility code.

Parents are asked to present their eligibility code, National Insurance number and the child's Date of Birth (DOB) to the provider of their choice.

The provider will then complete an electronic check through Westmorland and Furness Council to verify their eligibility. 

Parents will be expected to verify their continued eligibility every three months with HMRC, if they do not continue to be eligible, the additional hours will cease at the end of the grace period. 

What happens if a parent loses eligibility?

Parents will receive a grace period - this means they will be able to keep their childcare for a short period. Once the grace period has lapsed, the parent may be entitled to the universal 15 hour entitlement

Grace period eligibility timescales:

Date parent receives ineligible decision on reconfirmation Date local authority checks eligibility Grace period end date
1 January to 10 February 11 February 31 March
11 February to 31 March 1 April 31 August
1 April to 26 May 27 May 31 August
27 May to 31 August 1 September 31 December
1 September to 21 October 22 October 31 December 
22 October to 31 December  1 January 31 March
Who provides it?

You can use any of the following as long as they are Ofsted registered and are included on the local authority list to provde the entitlement.

  • Day nurseries
  • Pre schools
  • Nursery schools
  • Nursery classes
  • Some childminders
What are the benefits for your child and you?

Early years research clearly shows that good quality early education does benefit children in the long term.  It has also shown that high quality pre-school provision enhances children's social, physical and mental development, as well as helping them to prepare for school, giving them the best start in life.

Children will meet and play with other children, this will help them to build their confidence, the areas of learning include:

• Communication and language
• Physical development
• Personal, social and emotional development

Your child will:

• Experience new and exciting activities
• Make new friends
• Build their confidence and social skills
• Improve their speech and language

As a parent free early education can help you:

• Save on childcare costs
• Have time to explore work and/or training opportunities
• Take on more paid work
• Support your child to play and learn
• Have more time to yourself

How do I apply?

You can apply online for the extended entitlement. 

During the application you will be asked for information about yourself and your partner if you have one.

The information you will need to provide will include:

  • your National Insurance number,
  • the date you started work or the date you are due to start work,
  • details of any other government support that you get and,
  • if you are self employed,
  • your Unique Taxpayer Reference.

If you have difficulty with the application or do not have access to the internet you can phone the:

Childcare Service on 0300 123 4097

Frequently asked questions (FAQ's)

30 hours free childcare frequently asked questions 

Page last reviewed: 22/06/2023

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