Help with childcare costs

Free childcare if you're working

In addition to the free childcare for 3 and 4 year-olds that all parents and carers can get, you may be able to get extra childcare free if you're working.

30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year-olds

If eligible, you can get for 1,140 hours of free childcare a year during school term time. This includes the 570 hours that all parents and carers can get.

The 1,140 hours are usually taken as 30 hours a week over the 38 weeks of school term time, but your childcare provider may allow you to take fewer hours over more weeks.

Eligibility

Your eligibility depends on:

  • whether you’re working – employed, self-employed, or a director
  • your income, and the income of your partner if you have one
  • your child's age and circumstances
  • your immigration status

For full details, go to GOV.UK: Check you're eligible for free childcare if you're working.

You can get 30 hours free childcare at the same time as claiming Tax-Free Childcare, Universal Credit, tax credits or childcare vouchers. To compare the different types of support and how much you could get, go to GOV.UK: Check what help you could get with childcare costs.

The table below shows when you can claim free childcare after your child's 3rd birthday.

Your child's birthday Start getting free hours Best time to apply
1 January to 31 March Summer term, from April 15 January to 28 February
1 April to 31 August Autumn term, from September 15 June to 31 July
1 September to 31 December Spring term, from January 15 October to 30 November

You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.

The free early education and childcare stops when your child starts in reception class or reaches compulsory school age, if later.

Apply for free childcare

You can apply both for 30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year-olds and tax-free childcare in the same place through a single application.

For a step-by-step guide to applying, go to HM Government: Childcare Choices – how to apply for 30 hours childcare or GOV.UK: Get free childcare if you're working – step by step.

You must apply online via the government's website, below. If eligible, you'll get an online childcare account and a code for 30 hours childcare.

GOV.UK: Apply for free childcare if you're working

Re-applying every 3 months.

You must sign-in and confirm your details are up-to-date every 3 months or your code will expire. You will receive a reminder to do this.

If a change in your circumstances means you are no longer eligible for the extra hours of free childcare, your funding will continue for a short period of time. This is called a 'grace period'. Your child can continue with their childcare provider until the end of the grace period.

Using your free hours of childcare

Speak with your childcare provider about whether they offer 30 hours a week of free childcare during school term time. When planning how to use your free hours, keep in mind:

  • you use your 30 hours between 6am and 8pm but no session can be longer than 10 hours
  • you don't have to use all 30 hours, just those that meet your needs
  • childcare providers can choose not offer the full 30 hours
  • you can split your hours between providers, but you cannot use more than 2 childcare provider per day – you must get your 30 hours code checked by all the providers you use