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30 Hours Funded Childcare

All parents of children aged 3 and 4 years old (& some 2 year olds) are currently entitled to 15 hours' worth of FUNDED childcare per week. However, all working parents can apply for an additional 15 hours' FUNDED childcare, taking the total available to 30 hours a week.

Please refer to the Childcare Calculator before applying. If you are on Universal Credit, you should still apply to take up the 30 hours funded place as Universal Credit may be able to pay towards any remaining childcare costs.

Changes from 1 April 2019
Parents applying for a NEW 30 hours childcare place will now need to do so via our new Account Portal. Please head to the 'What will I need to apply & How do I do it?' tab below for full instructions, or see the Parent Journey for a quick-glance guide.

PLEASE NOTE: If your child already has a funded 15 or 30-hour place at a maintained nursery (school nursery), you DO NOT need to apply for an account with the local authority, as your place is already secure.

Parent Journey

This extra childcare is available to better support parents who want to work, or want to be able to increase their working hours, but without this help, wouldn't be able to afford to do so.

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

Term dates
SUMMER: 1 April - 31 August
AUTUMN: 1 September - 31 December
SPRING: 1 January - 31 March

PLEASE NOTE: You can withdraw your application and decline a place at any time up to 'headcount day' in any term. Headcount day is always 6 weeks into the term for the summer and autumn and 3 weeks into the term for spring.

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

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.

As of April 2019, you would need to earn the following based on your age:

AGE Average Weekly Earnings
Under 18 £69.60
18-20 £98.40
21-24 £123.20
Over 25 £131.36

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.

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


How do I apply?
If you think you are eligible for this, you can APPLY NOW.
Once you have your code from HMRC via the online application above, you can move straight onto creating your online council account here.

1. You must always start by going Childcare Choices to get your eligibility code (see above).
2. Once you have this, you can start creating a citizen account.
3. Complete your details in full and make sure you click SAVE at the bottom. This will then return you to the Homepage again and you will be asked to VERIFY YOUR EMAIL at the email address you've just used on the form. The email will be from System Support Service Desk at St Helens Council.
4. Once you have clicked on the link in the email to verify, you can return to the Homepage and Log-In using the Email/Username and Password you created.
5. You will then be asked to Create a Child by clicking on the blue New Child box.
6. You will then to add your NI Number and tick the child(ren) you are applying for the 30 hours for & click Enter Eligibility Code(s).
7. Enter the code and click Validate Codes. If you are eligible, you will get immediate confirmation onscreen.
8. You have then completed all checks and can click OK and head straight to the Childcare Online Search page and find what you need.
9. Once you have the one you'd like, complete the Register Interest step-by-step form and this will go to the provider.
10. You can register interest with as many as you like.
11. You will be informed by your online council account once a place is confirmed for you.

Please refer the Parent Journey for any further details.

Further Information
If you would like any further help, please do not hesitate to contact the St Helens Funded Early Education Entitlement Team on 01744 676542 / 6557 or email earlyyearsfeee@sthelens.gov.uk.

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 FIRST reminder email, 4 weeks before you need to re-confirm, will look something like this...

You will also get a SECOND reminder 2 weeks before you need to reconfirm, if you haven't done it already.

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 to re-apply. When your original code expires, you will fall into a grace period which means that you will be able to keep your child's place for a short period of time whilst you re-apply or try to regain employment. 

Foster Carers 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

The paid work outside of the role as a foster carer must meet the same criteria as any other parent, as stated in the tab above 'Am I eligible?'


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