Paying for Childcare

Childcare is one of the biggest expenses for a family, however, there is financial help available.

30 Hours Childcare for 3 and 4 year olds 

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to up to 15 hours per week, over no less than 38 weeks per year of free early education or childcare a year (maximum of 570 hours per year) starting the term after the child’s third birthday. This is often taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year.  

Working parents of three and four year olds may be entitled to an additional 15 hours of funded childcare - bringing the total up to 30 hours per week. 


You can usually get 30 hours free childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are: 

  • in work - or getting parental leave, sick leave or annual leave
  • each earning at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week – which is currently *£167 per week (*increasing to £183 from April 2024) 

This earnings limit does not apply if you are self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago. 

You are not eligible if: 

  • your child does not usually live with you
  • either you or your partner has a taxable income over £100,000
  • you’re from outside the EEA and your UK residence card says you cannot access public funds 

Important Information regarding the additional hours: 

  • Parents must apply for the additional 15 hours the term before they want to claim.  Below are examples of the dates for each term.
  • If you want to claim the additional 15 hours from the summer term (which starts April) you must have a 30 hour eligibility code with a start date before 31st March and your child must be 3 year old before 31st March.
  • If you want to claim the additional 15 hours from the autumn term (which starts September) you must have a 30 hour eligibility code with a start date before 31st August and your child must be 3 years old before 31st August.
  • If you want to claim the additional 15 hours from the spring term (which starts January) you must have a 30 hour eligibility code with a start date before 31st December and your child must be 3 years old before 31st December.

Further information or to apply for the additional 15 hours for 3 and 4 year olds to go:  Childcare Choices website 

You can get 30 hours free childcare at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, tax credits or Tax-Free Childcare. 


If you foster a child, you cannot apply online for any of the above funded childcare, you must speak to the child’s Social Worker if you believe you are eligible.

FUNDED CHILDCARE FOR vulnerable/disadvantaged Two Year Olds 

If parents do not meet the criteria for working parents funding for 2 year olds, some 2 year olds may be eligible for up to 15 hours per week of free early education  and childcare but parents/carers need to meet certain criteria.  

If you would like to apply for the vulnerable/disadvantaged 2 year old funding please complete either an: 

Please include your National Insurance Number and your own date of birth, as this information is needed to check your eligibility. 

Tax-Free Childcare

Tax-Free Childcare is a new Government scheme to help working families with their childcare costs.

Parents can open online childcare accounts to pay their registered childcare providers directly. 

For every £8 parents pay in to these accounts, the Government will add £2, and the total amount in the account can only be spent on childcare. Parents can receive up to £2,000 in Government support per child, per year, or £4,000 for disabled children.  


If you are under 20 at the start of a publicly funded course, for example at school or sixth form you could get weekly payments to help with childcare costs through the Care to Learn scheme.  Check whether you are eligible here 


Full-time higher education students with children can apply for a Childcare Grant.  The amount you may receive is available here

The grant helps with childcare costs for children under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs. 


If you and your partner are eligible for Shared Parental Leave and Pay, you can share up to 52 weeks of leave and up to 39 weeks of pay in the year after your child’s birth or adoption.


Students aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship, could get Discretionary Learner Support (DLS).  

Universal Credit 

You may be able to claim Universal Credit if you’re on a low income or out of work. If you are eligible, you may be able to claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs.
You don’t need to do anything if you’re already claiming benefits. 

Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit 

On top of a basic amount of Working Tax Credit,  you can get help paying for childcare if it’s provided by an Ofsted registered childcare provider or a home care worker working for a registered home care agency.  Check your eligibility here.