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Free Childcare to help Working Parents 

From September 2017, working parents with children aged 3-4 years old could be entitled to 30 hours free childcare. The additional hours can be taken flexibly throughout the year in a school, academy, private childcare provider or childminder.

The Government estimates that around 390,000 3 and 4 year olds will be eligible for this extra childcare and the expectation and hope is that it will benefit those families who are committed to working but are spending a significant amount of their wages on childcare in order to do so. 

It will support parents who want to work, or want to be able to increase their working hours, but until now, haven’t been able to afford to do so. 

This new government-led initiative in no way affects the current 15 hours free childcare, which every child aged 3-4 and a number of 2 year olds, depending on eligibility, can access.

Am I eligible?

 Parents of three and four year olds will need to meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for 30 hours free childcare:

  • They earn or expect to earn the equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum or Living Wage over the coming three months.
  • This equates to £120 a week (or c.£6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112.80 a week (or c.£5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old.
  • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on zero hours contract.
  • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work.
  • Where one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or if they are on statutory sick leave.
  • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work.
  • Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (i.e. they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.
  • If a non-EEA national, the parent must have recourse to public funds.

 A parent will not meet the criteria when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000
  • Either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control (and has no recourse to public funds)

 What happens if a parent loses eligibility?

  • They will receive a "grace period" – this means they will be able to keep their childcare for a short period.
  • Once the "grace period" has lapsed, the parent may be entitled to the universal 15 hour entitlement.

How do I apply?

If you think you are eligible for this, you can apply via the HMRC's Childcare Choices website.

How to access your Childcare Choices account after you've applied for 30 Hours?

If you have already applied for 30 Hours Free Childcare and are having difficulty finding your code, then log onto the childcare service.

1. To get into your account click on option "4. Apply or sign in to the childcare service as a parent." You will see the following screen.


2. Click "Apply" and then answer questions about your youngest child's age before being asked to sign in using your Government Gateway ID, which you will have received when you applied.

3. Once signed into the Government Gateway, you will see the Childcare Service Account Screen.

4. Click on "30 hours free childcare" to see your eligibility code. The code normally starts with with "500", or click on "Secure messages" and you should also be able to find a copy of your code there.

If you are still struggling to access your account, please contact the HMRC Call Centre on 0300 123 4097.