Free Childcare

If you are working, you are likely to be entitled to 30 hours per week of free childcare if your child is 3-4 years old.
You can choose to spread your 30 hours of free childcare over 38 weeks, which is the usual term times, or 52 weeks of the year. However, if you want to spread it over 52 weeks you would not get 52 weeks of 30 hours. It would be in the region of 22 hours per week. Not every childcare provider will be able to do this so you should ask if this is something they can provide.
The hours of childcare provided are free, but you may have to pay for extra items such as nappies, meals, trips.

Who Can Get It?

If you are working, you need to earn at least £722.45 per month. This is equivalent to 16 hours per week at £10.42 which is the minimum wage for those 23 and over. If you are younger than this, the amount you need to earn will be 16 times the National Minimum Wage for your age. If you have irregular income, your annual income can be considered. For people over 23, this would be at least an annual income of £8668. 

If you are not working, you may still be eligible for the 30 hours free childcare if your partner is working, you receive one of the benefits listed below and you are entering employment in the next 31 days. The relevant benefits are: 

  • Incapacity Benefit 
  • Severe Disablement Allowance  
  • Carer’s Allowance 
  • Limited Capability for Work Benefit  
  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (also called New-Style ESA) 

    Other Criteria

    Your child will need to live with you in order to qualify. You also need to have a National Insurance number and be either a British/Irish citizen, have settled or pre-settled status or have permission to access public funds. If your residence card says ‘No Recourse To Public Funds’ you will not be eligible.

    When 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 30 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

    It is important to know that you need to reconfirm that your child is eligible every 3 months.

    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 30 hours of free childcare is only available to children aged 3-4 years of age. The Government are intending that from September 2025, working parents of children under the age of 5 will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week.