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Funded childcare for working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds

Last reviewed: June 2023

All 3 and 4 year old children can have 15 hours funded early education a week over 38 weeks of the year. That’s 570 hours every year until they start school.

Some childcare providers offer fewer hours each week that can be taken over more weeks of the year.

Working families may get an extra 15 hours a week of funded childcare - so up to 30 in all!

Find out more and apply through the government’s Childcare Choices website.

How do I apply for the 30 hours?

How many hours are funded?

The current universal entitlement for all 3 and 4-year-olds will continue. Every 3 and 4 year-old will still be entitled to 15 hours childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year – a total of 570 hours per year.

Eligible working parents will be entitled to an additional 15 hours of childcare a week to make a total of 30 hours. This will be offered for 38 weeks of the year – a total of 1,140 hours per year.

What age does my child have to be to qualify?

Your child will be eligible to claim the 30 funded hours from the beginning of the term after their 3rd birthday. Terms start on 1 January, 1 April or 1 September.

For example, if you child turns 3 on the 23 June, they will be eligible from the 1 September.

What if I have applied or confirmed late to HMRC?

Please see funded childcare 30 hours eligiblity requirements for details.

If you believe you have missed out on applying or reconfirming through no fault of your own (for example, you weren't receiving the reconfirmation reminders or the HMRC website was not working), you will need to write to HMRC or phone the Childcare Service Helpline 0300 123 4097

Will my child qualify?

In order for a child aged three or four to qualify, both parents must be working or the sole parent must be working in a lone parent family. 

An adopted child qualifies as long as you and your partner meet the eligibility criteria.

You could still qualify for the 30 hours funded childcare if:

  • one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave
  • one or both parents are in receipt of statutory sick pay
  • one parent is in work and the other is on contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit because they have limited capability for work, or receives National Insurance credits because they have limited capability for work
  • one or both parents are on specific disability benefits
Is my foster child eligible?

Foster carers who work outside their fostering role may be able to claim 30 funded hours for children they foster.

The first step is to speak to the child's social worker. If the social worker feels this is appropriate for the child they will give you application form to complete. (You cannot use childcare choices to apply in this circumstance).

The application form must be agreed by the designated officer at Suffolk County Council (the Head of Fostering and Adoption) as appropriate and in line with the child's care plan.

If the application is successful you will be given a 30 hour code you can take to your chosen childcare provider to access the funded childcare.

You will need to reconfirm your details with your social worker every 3 months.

Is there a minimum or maximum each parent must earn?

There is no minimum income, everyone is entitled to 15 hours free childcare for 3-4 year olds, to qualify for an additional 15 hours you must meet the following:

Over the next 3 months you and your partner (if you have one) must each expect to earn at least:

  • £1,976 if you’re aged 23 or over
  • £1,909 if you’re aged 21 or 22
  • £1,420 if you’re aged 18 to 20
  • £1,000 if you’re under 18 or an apprentice

This is at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average.

You can use an average of how much you expect to earn over the current tax year if:

  • you work throughout the year but do not get paid regularly
  • you’re self-employed and do not expect to earn enough in the next 3 months
Will my child qualify if my partner or I are self employed?

As long as you earn at least the minimum amount (see ‘Is there a minimum or a maximum amount that each parent must earn?’ above) but less than the upper threshold of £100,000 each, your child will be eligible for the 30 hours funded childcare.

Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (because they are newly self-employed), they do not need to satisfy the minimum earned income condition for the first 12 months.

Will my child qualify if I have just started a new job?

You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.

What happens if my income drops below the minimum amount? Or I lose my job?

If either parent starts earning less than the minimum income threshold or stops working altogether, you will be given a short ‘grace period’ (set by the Government) to give you time to find a new job and start earning at least the minimum amount again. This ‘grace period’ has not been specified as of November 2016.

If you do not find a new job within the grace period, your child will stop being eligible to receive the 30 hours funded childcare.

If my partner or I become eligible part way through a term can we get the 30 hours straight away?

The Government has said that local authorities should allow you to start claiming your 30 funded hours “as soon as is reasonably practicable” during that term, and no later than the start of the next term.

What type of childcare providers can offer the 30 hours?

All Ofsted-registered approved childcare providers on Suffolk's List of Providers of grant funded early education can choose to offer the 30 hours funded childcare. This includes childminders, nursery schools, day nurseries and pre-schools. 

It is the providers' choice if they offer the 30 hours. Parents should speak to their current provider or any provider they are thinking of using. Details of providers can be found on Suffolk Family Services Directory.

Can I take the 30 hours childcare with a nanny or relative?

No, because they are not approved to deliver the entitlement.

Can I use more than one childcare provider to claim the full 30 hours?

There will be no limitation on the number of providers. However, the 30 hours will be limited to two sites in a single day to avoid the potential negative impact on children of multiple transitions between sites.

Do I have to use all 30 hours each week?

No, you can use anything from 16-30 hours - it is up to you.

However, not all childcare providers may be able to offer the exact amount of funded hours that you require. If your childcare provider cannot offer the exact amount of funded hours that you require, you could split your 30 funded hours across more than one childcare provider.

Providers can claim the 30 funded hours entitlement from their Local Authority using the following criteria:

  • 10 hours maximum per day
  • No minimum amount of hours per day
  • Hours between 6am – 8pm each day


Can I claim my 30 hours a week all year round?

The new 30 hours’ entitlement should be flexible. The phrase ‘30 hours a week’ is based on a childcare provider only being open for the 38 weeks during the year (term-time only). However, childcare providers will have the option to offer the same total number of hours (1,140 per year) over more than 38 weeks.

For example, if a childcare provider is open 48 weeks of the year, then they could offer 23.75 funded hours per week all year round. Or if a provider is open 51 weeks of the year, then they could offer 22.25 funded hours per week all year round. This is known as a stretched offer.

However, not all childcare providers may be able to offer the stretched offer.

Providers can claim the 30 hours’ entitlement from their Local Authority using the following criteria:

  • 10 hours maximum per day
  • No minimum amount of hours per day
  • Hours between 6am – 8pm each day

No childcare provider can offer more than 30 funded hours per week over fewer than 38 weeks.

If your child attends a childcare provider for more than the funded hours available in a claim period, you will be responsible for these fees. You should also check whether there are any other additional charges such as for meals and snacks.


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