How to apply for 15/30 hours free childcare

The Free Early Education Entitlement currently offers 15 hours of early education for 38 weeks each year. This is available to all three- and four-year-old children and the most disadvantaged two-year-olds in England.

This universal offer for three- and four-year-olds was extended to 30 hours for children of working parents in September 2017.

While the universal entitlement is focused on supporting child development, the government aim of this extension is that “Additional free childcare will help families by reducing the cost of childcare and will support parents into work or to work more hours should they wish to do so”.

Apply by 31 December to get a code to use for the term starting in January.

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  • Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) and 15/30 hours free childcare are two separate government schemes, but they use the same online application process
  • You can apply for 15/30 hours free childcare and apply for/continue to receive childcare vouchers through your employer
  • You don’t have to apply for TFC to be eligible for the 15/30 hours free childcare
  • You can’t receive both TFC and childcare vouchers within your family
  • Analysis by Employers for Childcare shows that the majority of working families will be better off with childcare vouchers, tax credits or a combination of both, rather than TFC

* The first 15 hours of free childcare is available to all families. The additional 15 hours (to make 30 in total) is only available to working families who each earn between £6,240 and £100,000 a year.

Check what help you could get with your childcare costs, and which support might be best for you, using the childcare calculator.

Find out more about similar schemes in Scotland - external linkWales - external link / Cymru - external link, and Northern Ireland.

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For families in England, receiving some forms of supportWith 2-year-old children15 hours of free childcare or early education a week.png