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Information about free childcare schemes

If you earn less than £16,190, or are on benefits, you may be able to get 15 hours free childcare for your two year old. It takes a few minutes to apply online.

The places are for 38 weeks a year. If your childcare provider has space, you may be able to stretch your hours over more weeks, e.g. 11 hours over 48 weeks. Talk to them about this.

The earliest this place will start is January, April, or September after your child’s 2nd birthday. See below for more information about when your child can start.

You may be able to get a place with a childminder, nursery, playgroup, children’s centre and even some school nurseries. There is a list of Two Year old childcare providers who have been accepted to the scheme, and you can contact them to see if they have space for your child.

How can I apply for a place?

Follow these 6 steps.

1. Wait until your child is 2 years old
2. You will need to complete a new look online form providing your name, your national insurance number, date of birth, e-mail address and other information
3. Once you have completed the online application you will get a reference number by email
4. If you are successful in your application you will need to find a childminder, playgroup or nursery place from our approved list of Two Year Old Providers
5. You will get an e-mail confirming your eligibility for 15 hours FREE childcare and education
6. Give the reference number and/or a copy of the confirmation e-mail to your childcare provider so that they will inform us of your child(ren)s place

If you have applied online and have a question, do phone 020 8820 7488 or email freechildcare@learningtrust.co.uk with details of your name, child’s name, and date of birth, ideally your reference number, and contact phone number.

When can my child start?

- If your child was born between 1 January – 31 March funding will start in April, following your child’s second birthday
- If your child was born between 1 April – 31 August funding will start in September, following your child’s second birthday
- If your child was born between 1 September – 31 December funding will start in January, following your child’s second birthday

Eligibility

If you are on any of these benefits, your child should be able to get a place:

- Income support Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Child Tax Credit but not Working Tax Credit) and have an annual income not over £16,190
- Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- Support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
- Working Tax Credit and earn £16,190 a year or less

You can also get a place if:

- they’re looked after by a local council;
- they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education health and care plan;
- they get Disability Living Allowance; or
- they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or residence order.

You will need to provide evidence of all the above

If you get Working Tax Credit you must tell the Tax Credit helpline as soon as you start getting the 15 hours free childcare as this may affect the amount that you get (you will always be better off by claiming the 15 hours free childcare). Phone them on 0345 300 3900 Monday – Friday 8am – 8pm or Saturday 8am – 4pm.

All three and four year olds are entitled to a free part-time nursery education place regardless of how much their families earn.

The places are for 15 hours a week, 38 weeks a year. If your childcare provider has space, you may be able to stretch your hours over more weeks, e.g. 11 hours over 48 weeks. Talk to them about this.

You can find these free nursery places at:
- school nurseries;
- children’s centres;
- day nurseries and playgroups; and
- childminders.

You do not have to do anything to get funding. The nursery or playgroup will ask you to sign a document called a headcount form which they will then pass on to us to claim the funding.

If your child goes to more than one nursery class with a school, playgroup or childminder, you cannot claim more than the 570 hours per year childcare/education. Please tell your childcare provider if your child is attending in another setting.

Eligibility

To qualify for the full 15 hours, your child must attend for at least two days a week.

When can my child start?

If your child was born between 1 January – 31 March funding will start in April, following your child’s third birthday
If your child was born between 1 April – 31 August funding will start in September, following your child’s third birthday
If your child was born between 1 September – 31 December funding will start in January, following your child’s third birthday

Some working parents will be eligible for an additional 15 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year olds. These families will be able to access up to 30 hours of free childcare a week, 38 weeks a year.

If your childcare provider has space, you may be able to stretch your hours over more weeks e.g. 22 hours over 48 weeks. Talk to them about this.

- if their birthday is before 1 September, they can start in the autumn term
- if their birthday is before 1 January, they can start in the spring term
- if their birthday is before 1 April, can start in the summer term

Who is eligible?

You may be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare if your circumstances are as follows:

- Both parents are earning 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 about £6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112.80 a week (or about £5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old. (These rates were correct in March 2017. National Minimum/Living Wage rates change every April. Please check https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates for up-to-date information).
- 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.

Who will not qualify?

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)

How to apply

To find out if you are eligible for 30 hours free childcare, you can apply now on the Childcare Service. You will need your national insurance number and, where applicable, your partner’s national insurance number to fill in the application form.

Apply for 30 hours free childcare

If parents encounter any problems with the application process or with accessing the childcare account, they can call the childcare service Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.