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30 Hours Free Childcare

All parents of children aged 3 and 4 years old are currently entitled to 15 hours worth of FREE childcare per week. However, all working parents can apply for an additional 15 hours FREE childcare taking the total available to 30 hours a week.

The next full term starts on January 1st 2019. In order to access this you must have applied for your code and had it validated by no later than December 31st 2018. Ideally, you should apply before the Christmas School Holidays start to ensure you get your funding on time.

This extra childcare was introduced to better support parents who want to work, or want to be able to increase their working hours, but without this help, haven’t been able to afford to do so.

15 hours FREE childcare per week will remain for every child aged 3-4 and a number of 2 year olds, depending on eligibility.

Already receiving your 30 HOURS free childcare?
If you want your 30 hours FREE childcare to continue, you MUST re-confirm your details & eligibility every 3 months. Full information is available below in the "Re-Confirm Eligibility" tab below.

Customer Journey


This is not available to everyone and there are strict criteria in place, as follows:

  • Your child must be aged 3 or 4 years old
  • Both parents must be working, or the sole parent in a single-parent family must be in work
  • Each parent earns, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent of 16 hours employment at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage  
  • Each parent must have an annual income of less than £100,000
  • You live in England

The same rules apply to anyone on a zero-hours contract or those who are self-employed. However, it is important to remember that this scheme is being introduced to help working parents and is not simply a way for those choosing not to work to be able to access an additional benefit.  

There are certain provisions in place for families where one of the parents:

  • Is not in work due to being an official carer and receiving benefits related to this
  • Is receiving disability benefits
  • Is normally in work but is temporarily away from the workplace due to illness, maternity leave etc.

Help will be available to ascertain what support will be in place for these families and how to access it.  Parents who are studying or in training will not be eligible unless they also work and meet the above listed minimum average earnings threshold.

I’m not sure if I’m paid the equivalent of 16 hours at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage?
This will depend on your age and for this scheme, the minimum amount will always be the lowest hourly rate that a person of your age can legally be paid. 
Currently, for a parent aged 21-24, you'd need to earn a weekly average of at least £111.20. If you are a parent aged 25 or over, you'd need to earn a weekly average of at least £115.20.

The scheme will also take into account that sometimes people lose their jobs and there will be a "grace period" in place should this situation arise. However, at the time of writing this, the period of time allowed for new employment to be found hasn’t yet been defined.

If you have applied and/or claimed up to 30 hours of free childcare and/or Tax-Free Childcare, you must reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. You must do this even if your child hasn't started using their 30 hour free place yet. 

How do I do it?

  • You must do this 3 months from the date you applied to receive the 30 hours and then again every 3 months.
  • You will get a text and/or email 4 weeks before your re-confirmation deadline which will remind you to log into your Childcare Service account.
  • In the account, head to 'secure messages' which you can access at any time, and in the section on re-confirmation your re-confirmation date will be stated.
  • You can re-confirm your eligibility up to 4 weeks before your actual date.

Your email will look something like this...

How do I access my account?

Simply head back to the Childcare Service and log in.

What if I miss the re-confirmation deadline?
If you miss the deadline, or if your circumstances change, you will get a message to say your eligibility has ended. In order to receive the free 30 hours again you will have to re-submit an application and present your new code to your provider. Your childcare provider will let you keep your child's place for a short period of time whilst you rearrange your childcare or apply again but you must discuss this with your childcare provider.

What do I need to apply?
Before you start the application, it's important to ensure that the childcare provider you are using / would like to use the free hours with is participating and signed up to offer the additional 15 hours.

When applying you will need:

  • A Government Gateway account (if you don't have one, you can set one up as you apply)
  • Yours (and your partner's, if applicable) National Insurance number(s)
  • Access to a mobile phone or landline
  • Either your UK Passport, Tax Credit information, P60 or recent Payslip


If you were invited to the service, but the system doesn't find you...
That's OK. Simply, select No, instead of Yes, when prompted, and you will still be able to apply.

How do I apply?

If you think you are eligible for this, you can APPLY NOW via the online application form on the HMRC website. You can also apply for Tax Free Childcare online.

Further Information
If you would like any further help, please do not hesitate to contact the St.Helens Free Early Education Entitlement Team on 01744 676542 / 6557 or email earlyyearsfeee@sthelens.gov.uk. You can also find out about all childcare available online at Childcare Choices.

Foster Parents with children in their care are now entitled to apply for 30 hours free childcare, however, the process is slightly different.

Always start by speaking to your Social Worker and they will guide you through the process from there as it is vital to ensure that is the right path for the child in your care.

Children in foster care who are aged 3 or 4 years old will be able to receive 30 hours free childcare, if the following criteria are met:
1. Accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan; and
2. Where there is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent; or
3. Where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent

If you're still not sure how you can use your benefits with childcare options, hopefully this quick at a glance guide will help.