15 Hours Free Childcare

All parents who have 3–4-year-old children are entitled to 570 hours of free childcare per week. This works out at 15 hours per week spread over 38 weeks, which is the usual school term times.

The hours of childcare provided are free, but you may have to pay for extra items such as nappies, meals, trips.

Some parents of children aged 2-3 years of age can also get 15 hours of free childcare. You will need to be in receipt of at least one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit (or both), and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
If your child receives Disability Living Allowance or has an education, health and care plan (EHCP), you can also get 15 hours of free childcare.
If you have No Recourse to Public Funds, meaning that you cannot claim certain benefits, and your household income does not exceed £26,500 per year, if you have one child, or £30,600 per year if you have 2 or more children, you can also receive 15 hours of free childcare.

How to apply

You do not have to wait until your child is 3 to apply. The earliest you can start your application is when your child is 2 years and 36 weeks old. This table is useful for knowing when you should start applying:

When your child turns 3

When they can get 15 hours from

Recommended time to apply

1 September to 31 December

Term starting on or after 1 January

15 October to 30 November

1 January to 31 March

Term starting on or after 1 April

15 January to 28 February

1 April to 31 August

Term starting on or after 1 September

15 June to 31 July

April 2024 – Changes to 15 Hours Free Childcare

From the 1 April 2024 more parents are going to be eligible for 15 hours per week of free childcare. To be eligible, you need to be working. If you are part of a couple, you both need to be working.  

Both of the following need to apply to qualify: 

Your child needs to be 2 years of age, or turn 2 before 1 April 2024 

You, and your partner if you have one, both need to earn at least £8,670 per year and less than £100,000 net adjusted income. 

Net adjusted income means your income after some tax relief and deductions. 

If you already get 15 hours of free childcare from the government, you are not eligible for this scheme. However, you can get these 15 hours of free childcare if you are using the Tax-Free Childcare system or receive payments for your childcare via Universal Credit.  

When will my child be eligible for the 15 hours?

If your child is already 2 or turns 2 before the 31 March 2024, then your child can receive the 15 hours from 1 April 2024. 

If your child turns 2 between 1 April and 31 August 2024, your child can receive the 15 hours from 1 September 2024. 

Further changes are due to be implemented from 1 September 2024, where the age for eligibility will become 9 months.  

For further information about things to consider please check here. 

How to apply

You can apply online here.

After you have applied you will be given a code which you should then give to your chosen childcare provider who will be able to set everything up.

Every 3 months you will need log in to your account and confirm that your child is entitled to the 30 hours free childcare and make sure that your details are up to date.

Future changes

Currently, the 15 hours of free childcare is only available to children aged 3-4 years of age and some children aged 2. The Government are intending that from:

September 2024: 15 hours of free childcare will be extended to all children from the age of nine months.