30 hours free childcare

You may be able to get up to 30 hours free childcare (1,140 hours per year, which you can choose how you take) if your child is 3 to 4 years old.

If you’ve already registered, you can sign in to your childcare account.

The childcare:

  • must be with an approved childcare provider
  • stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later)

You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.

There are different schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

You can apply online for a childcare account to get a code for 30 hours to give to your provider.

Eligibility

Your eligibility depends on:

  • if you are working
  • how much you earn
  • your child’s circumstances
  • your nationality

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

If you are working

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

  • in work
  • on sick leave or annual leave
  • on parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave

If you’re on parental leave, you cannot apply for the child you’re on leave for.

If you are not currently working

You may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.

How much you earn

You’ll need to expect to earn a certain amount over the next 3 months. This is at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average.

For example, over the next 3 months you expect to earn at least £1,707.68 - the National Living Wage for people over 25.

If you have a partner, they’ll need to expect to earn at least this much too.

If you’re self-employed and do not expect to make enough profit in the next 3 months, you can use an average of how much you expect to make over the current tax year.

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

If you or your partner have an ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000 in the current tax year you will not be eligible. This includes any bonuses you expect to get.

Your adjusted net income is your total taxable income before any personal allowances and minus things like Gift Aid.

Your partner

Your partner’s employment and income will affect your eligibility if you are:

  • married or in a civil partnership and live together
  • not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are

Their employment and income will not affect your eligibility if they:

  • are or will be absent from your household for more than 6 months
  • are a prisoner

Your child

You will not be eligible if your child does not usually live with you.

If you foster your child, you cannot use the online application to get 30 hours free childcare. Speak to your social worker and your local authority if you want to apply.

Your nationality

You will not be eligible if you’re from outside the EEA and your UK residence card says you cannot access public funds.

Your partner can apply instead if they’re from:

  • the UK or EEA
  • outside the EEA and their UK residence card says they can access public funds

When to apply

You can apply from when your child is 2 years and 36 weeks old.

When your child turns 3 When they can get 30 hours from Recommended time to apply
1 September to 31 December 1 January 15 October to 30 November
1 January to 31 March 1 April 15 January to 28 February
1 April to 31 August 1 September 15 June to 31 July

You can apply outside of these recommended dates but you might not receive your code in time.

You must have a valid code by the end of the month before a new term starts.

You have to reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. If you apply more than 3 months before the term starts, you’ll have to reconfirm your eligibility in your account in order to keep your code valid.

Apply

Apply online for 30 hours free childcare.

You and your partner cannot both have accounts for the same child.

If you are applying for 30 hours and someone else already claims Tax-Free Childcare for that child, your application will be unsuccessful.

If you are separated

You and your ex-partner need to decide who should apply if you are jointly responsible for your child.

If you cannot decide, both of you must apply separately and HMRC will decide who gets a childcare account.

  1. Step 1 Check you're eligible

  2. Step 2 Check if you'll be better off

    Getting 30 hours free childcare might affect how much you get in tax credits.

    1. Check if you’ll be better off
  3. Step 3 Apply for 30 hours free childcare

    There's one application for 30 hours free childcare and Tax-Free Childcare. As part of your application, you will find out if you can get both.

    1. Apply online

    If you're eligible you'll get a childcare account and a code for 30 hours free childcare.

  4. Step 4 Give your code to your childcare provider

    Give the code in your childcare account to your provider along with:

    • your National Insurance number
    • your child's date of birth
  5. Step 5 Sign in to your account to reconfirm your details

    You must confirm your details are up to date every 3 months or your code will expire.

    1. Sign in to your childcare account to confirm your details