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30 hours free childcare

Childminder doing craft activity with young children

The government is aiming to make childcare more affordable for working parents by increasing free early education from 15 to 30 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year for some 3 and 4 year old children. This is known as an 'extended entitlement'.

A family's entitlement to access free places for 3 and 4 year olds is not affected.


Not all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to the additional 15 hours. Eligibility for the free entitlement includes households where:

  • both parents are working or one parent is working in lone parent families. This is defined as earning the equivalent of 16 hours per week on national minimum wage and can include self-employment.
  • both parents are employed but one or both of them are temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
  • both parents are employed but one or both of them are temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay.
  • one parent is employed and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring.
  • one parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on specific benefits.

Parents remain eligible for the free entitlement if they access tax credits, universal credit, tax-free childcare and other childcare schemes to help pay for any additional childcare they need in addition to their free entitlement.

From September 2018, children who have a special guardianship order or are in foster care may also be eligible for 30 hours.

The additional hours are provided by day nurseries, childminders, pre-school playgroups and school nursery classes.

Here is a list of providers who are offering 30 hours free childcare.

How to apply

To apply for 30 hours free childcare, and to find out the most up to date information about the scheme, visit the Childcare Choices website.

The Childcare Choices website also has information about free places for 2 year olds, free places for 3 and 4 year olds, tax free childcare, tax credits and Universal Credit for childcare, childcare vouchers and support with childcare costs for students.

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