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Help with Childcare Costs

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The government has introduced several new schemes to help with the cost of childcare. Finding the most suitable option for your family can be tricky, here you will find all the information you need for each scheme; from understanding if you qualify to the application process.





Free Places for 2 Year Olds

We have free places for some 2 year olds in Trafford. If you are eligible, you can apply for up to 15 free hours per week at an approved provider who is part of the scheme.  You can get your child's free place from the January, April or September after their second birthday.  For full details about who is eligible and the number of hours you can claim, see the guide.

Finding a place for your child

There is a choice of providers such as a pre school playgroup, a private day nursery or a childminder. They must have available spaces and be on Trafford's approved list of providers.  Look out for the 15 hours a week free childcare logo which means a provider is part of the scheme. 

You should find a provisional place for your child before submitting your application. If you are unable to find your child a place, please let us know and we'll help you. 

Apply online now

If you have any questions about how this scheme works or need support to access a place for your child, please contact Trafford Family Information Service on 0161 912 1053.


Free Places for 3 and 4 Year Olds

What is free early education?

All children are eligible for free early education starting from the term after they turn 3. This means from 1 September, 1 January or 1 April after their third birthday. You can claim up to and including the term in which your child turns 5, although many children will start school before this.

Where can I get it?

You may choose to get your free early education in a school nursery class. If this is the case, you do not need to complete an early education application form.

Alternatively, you can claim your free early education at a private day nursery, pre-school playgroup, nursery unit of an independent school or at an accredited network childminder. You can only claim your free hours at a provider who is included in Trafford's approved list.

View approved providers

If your child gets their early education at a provider which is not in Trafford, you will need to claim your free hours from the authority in which the provider is situated. If your child gets their early education at a provider in Trafford, you must apply to Trafford for your free hours, regardless of where you live.

How to apply

To claim your free hours, the parent or carer of each child must submit an application form. The application lasts until the child moves to a school. 

Apply online now

How many hours can I claim?

You can claim a maximum of 15 free hours per week. The maximum hours you can claim depends on how many days per week your child attends the provider.

  • If you attend 1 day, you can claim a maximum of 10 hours
  • If you attend 2 or more days, you can claim a maximum of 15 hours

Please be aware that although the government has set these maximum limits, it is up to individual early education providers to decide how they are going to offer the free hours. This means that the number of hours in a session and the days available may be different at each provider. Please check with your provider if you are unsure how they offer the free hours.

You can claim a maximum of 570 hours per year, which is 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year. If your provider is only open during term time, you will be allocated your free hours for the actual number of weeks which the provider is open during each term. If your provider is open all year round, you will be allocated 14 weeks for autumn term, 12 weeks for spring term and 12 weeks for summer term.

Some providers who are open all year round may allow you to stretch your free hours over the full year. For example, you could get 47½ free hours per calendar month. You may find this is an easier way to work out any payments you need to make to your provider for additional hours or services.

Can I claim at more than one provider?

You can claim your free hours at two different providers but you cannot claim more than 15 hours per week in total. If you do this, your free hours will be allocated on a pro-rata basis calculated by the number of hours your child attends each setting. You cannot claim at more than two providers. If you attend less than 15 hours per week at a school nursery class, it is possible to claim the additional hours at another provider.

For further support you can contact the Family Information Service on 0161 912 1053.

30 Hours Free Childcare

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.

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.

To apply for 30 hours free childcare if eligible you will need to gain an 11 digit code from HMRC. You will give this 11 digit code to your childcare provider for them to confirm your eligibility. Once you have your 11 digit code and have secured a place in the setting of your choice you will then need to complete Trafford's Parent Declartion form to advise Trafford where your funding will be allocated.

For further information and support you can also contact the HMRC Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.

Tax Free Childcare

What is Tax-Free Childcare?

Parents can open an online childcare account via the Childcare Choices website (below), which they can use to pay their childcare provider directly.

For every £8 a parent pays in, the government will pay in an extra £2. Parents can receive up to £2,000 per child, per year, towards their childcare costs, or £4,000 for disabled children – separate from funded entitlements. The offer is available for children up to the age of 12, or 17 for children who are disabled.

To qualify, both parents have to be in work, and each expecting to earn at least £120 a week – and not more than £100,000 each year.


Tax-Free Childcare can be used to pay for:


Parents can’t claim Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as claiming tax credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers. Childcare providers can receive payments from both Tax-Free Childcare and childcare vouchers.     

Parents can only pay their childcare provider from their childcare account if their childcare provider is signed up to Tax-Free Childcare.


How does Tax-Free Childcare work for providers?


Childcare providers can sign up now for Tax-Free Childcare and have all received letters inviting them to join Tax-Free Childcare. They must do this in order to receive payments from parents through the scheme.

To sign up, childcare providers should visit and will need:

  • The unique code included in their invitation letter.
  • The bank account details for the account they wish to receive payments into.
  • Their Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number – or their National Insurance number, if they don’t have a UTR.

To sign up, childcare providers must first be registered or approved, with a regulating body.

Payments are made directly from a parent’s online account and will automatically include the government’s contribution, arriving in one simple transaction for providers.

For further information about the scheme, please see the Childcare Service website.

Childcare Vouchers

Childcare Vouchers are a form of Employer-supported childcare. Employer-supported childcare describes the help that is offered by employers to employees to help with childcare costs. Employers are not obliged by law to offer this support, so talk to your line manager / HR department to find out if they offer a scheme and what this includes. Savings are on tax and National Insurance and can be up to £900 per year per parent.

Childcare vouchers are the most common form of employer-supported childcare via a 'salary sacrifice' or 'salary plus' scheme. Some employers administer the scheme themselves; others run a scheme through a childcare voucher company.

You will either be supplied with childcare vouchers from your employer or the voucher company. You can use these to pay your childcare provider who will claim the value of the voucher from the voucher company or from your employer, usually by direct payment into their bank account.

Childcare vouchers may affect the amount of tax credits you can get. On the HMRC website, there is a useful calculator which you can use to work out if you would be better off using childcare vouchers or not.

Trafford Council employees can obtain Childcare Vouchers under the Kiddi Vouchers scheme.

Help with Childcare Costs for Studying Parents

If you are considering starting a course, you should first check with your training provider to see what childcare provision and financial assistance will be available while you are studying.

Financial help for childcare costs while you are studying is generally restricted to childcare that is registered with Ofsted. The type of funding available will depend on what level of qualification you are studying for, i.e. further education or higher education

Support is mainly available through your training provider - college, university, training institution - or local education authority.

If you are in further education, help for childcare includes:

  • Care to Learn
  • Discretionary Learner Support Fund

If you are in higher education, help includes:

  • Childcare Grant
  • Parent's Learning Allowance
  • Access to Learning Fund
  • Hardship funds or bursaries.

For more information, please see the Studying Parents section of the Family and Childcare Trust website.

Free School Meals

If you get any of the following support payments your child may be entitled to receive free school meals:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

Children who receive a qualifying benefit in their own right are also allowed to receive free school meals.

Children under the compulsory school age who are in full time education may also be entitled to receive free school meals.

Free school meals are available in all schools following application to the authority at: or by calling 0161 912 3265.


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