Jul 01, 2020

Funded childcare: Everything you need to know

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Understanding the different kinds of funded childcare and knowing what is available to you and when, can be confusing. We hope to provide some answers in this blog to ensure all parents with children at nursery know what funded childcare might be available to them and how to access it.

So, what is funded childcare exactly? Quite simply, it is government help with childcare costs for parents.

Funded education was introduced in September 1998, however, since its introduction, the Early Years sector has undergone several policy changes, which adds to the overall confusion of what is available to parents. The changes come primarily in the form of subsidies and tax relief initiatives to help families with childcare costs.

Parents are able to gain access to funded childcare if the childcare is provided by an approved childcare provider. The Old Station Nursery Group settings are all approved childcare providers, registered with Ofsted.

So, let’s break down the different options depending on the age of your child. There are currently three separate government funded childcare schemes that offer free childcare for children aged 2, 3 and 4. Each of the free childcare schemes has different eligibility rules so we have broken down the information below.

Funded education and childcare for 2-year-olds

15 hours free childcare

You are entitled to claim 15 hours free childcare per week from the government for your 2-year-old for 38 weeks of the year. This equates to 570 hours of free childcare per year.

You are entitled to claim 15 hours free childcare for your 2-year-old if you live in England and receive 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
  • Tax credits, and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

If you are not receiving a qualifying benefit, 2-year-olds can also get funded childcare if they:

You will have access to this funding the term after your child turns 2 (see table below):


Birthday falls between Term funding starts
1st September to 31st December 1st January
1st January to 31st March 1st April
1st April to 31st August 1st September

Procedures to apply for 2-year-old funding differ across Local Authorities. You should speak to your Health Visitor, Nursery Manager or look online at your Local Authority website.

Funded childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds

15 hours free childcare

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England are eligible for 570 funded hours per year until they go into Reception class or reach compulsory school age (the term following their 5th birthday). There are no earning or work requirements. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but you can choose to take fewer hours over more weeks, for example.

You will have access to this funding the term after your child turns 3 (see table below):


Birthday falls between Term funding starts
1st September to 31st December 1st January
1st January to 31st March 1st April
1st April to 31st August 1st September

Your child is automatically entitled to 15 hours funded childcare the term after their third birthday; you do not have to do anything to receive this funding as your chosen childcare provider will do it for you. If you have any questions or queries, your Nursery Manager will be able to help.

30 hours funded childcare

You may be able to get up to 30 hours funded childcare (1,140 hours per year, which you can choose how you take) if your child is 3 to 4 years old and you are working parents.

You, and any partner, must each expect to earn (on average) at least £139 per week (equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage). You will still be treated as meeting the earning requirement if you or your partner are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave – this applies whether you are single or in a couple.

If you are in a couple and one of you meets the earning requirements through qualifying paid work but one of you is unable to work because you have a disability or you are a carer, then you will be exempt from the earnings requirement. In this circumstance, one of you must be working and the other would need to evidence that they are unable to work by showing that they are receiving Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

You will not have access to the 30 hours funded childcare scheme if either you, or your partner, each individually, expect to earn £100,000 or more.

All funded childcare starts the term after  your child’s 3rd birthday:


Birthday falls between Term funding starts Recommended time to apply for 30 hours funding
1st September to 31st December 1st January 15th October to 30th November
1st January to 31st March 1st April 15th January to 28th February
1st April to 31st August 1st September 15th June to 31st July

You must reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. If you apply more than 3 months before the term starts, you’ll have to reconfirm your eligibility in your account (which you’ll be given once you have applied for the first time) in order to keep your code valid.

To check eligibility for 30 hours funded childcare, you will need to visit: www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/. You will receive an 11-digit funding code. You will need to give the funding code, your National Insurance number and your child’s date of birth to your Nursery Manager. You can apply from when your child is 2 years and 36 weeks old (see table above).

Other information

The Old Station Nursery Group settings provide the opportunity to stretch the funding across 51 or 52 weeks. Sessions can vary across our nurseries, so please speak to the Nursery Manager, who can tell you how the funded sessions are offered and the additional service charge for each funded session.

The funded childcare offers detailed above for 2-year-olds and 3 to 4-year-olds are not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables (such as nappies or sun cream), additional hours or additional activities (such as trips, clubs). The Old Station Nursery Group Nurseries charge an additional service charge for each funded session. Please do ask the Nursery Manager for more information.

There are other ways that you may be able to get help with childcare costs, for children under the age of 18 years. You might be able to apply for:

Please speak to your Nursery Manager for any information you may need regarding the funding entitlements or other help with childcare costs.


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