Childcare for service children

Information on childcare for service families within the UK and overseas.

Wraparound childcare

(Known as ‘Out of School care’ in Wales and ’School Aged Childcare’ in Scotland)

Childcare is a concern that has been and continues to be raised on behalf of service families by the Families Federations and other stakeholders, and the concern has been reflected in recent surveys carried out by the Families Federations and also in the wider Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey, (AFCAS) and the Families Continuous Attitude Survey, (FAMCAS).

Feedback from AFCAS and FAMCAS highlighted that a lack of affordable childcare has a significant impact on partner employment, which can influence service personnel’s decision whether to stay or leave the Armed Forces.

In recognition of the issues that some service families can face when trying to access wraparound childcare and its potential negative impact on retention, the Secretary of State for Defence has laid out his intention for defence to support families by funding the Wraparound Childcare (WAC) scheme during term time for eligible Service children aged 4 to 11 years old (up to capped rates).

The wraparound childcare pilot commenced at RAF High Wycombe and RAF Halton at the start of the Autumn term, 1 September 2020. The second phase of the pilot launched in the Plymouth area and Catterick Garrison at the start of the spring term, 1 January 2021. The pilot was expanded to a third phase at the start of the Autumn term, 1 September 2021 to include a Lincolnshire Cluster and a Woolwich Cluster. All pilots will continue until July 2022 or until full UK rollout of the scheme , whichever is soonest earlier.

You can read more about the wraparound childcare pilot.

Eligible service personnel (Tri-Service) assigned to an eligible unit at the pilot sites will be able to apply for up to 20 hours per week (term time only) of wraparound childcare funding for 4 to 11 year-old children attending before and after school clubs.

Eligibility criteria

  • At least one partner (or single parent) serving as an Armed Forces Regular (including Full Time Reserve Service Full Commitment)
  • Service personnel must be assigned to a unit at one of the pilot sites within the application window at that site.
  • Dependent children aged 4 to 11 must attend school (including home schooled children), be living with the serving person for the majority of the time unless separated due to service commitments (deployment, residential courses) or when on unaccompanied assignments; foster children are not eligible.
  • The partner of the service person must be in paid employment, starting or restarting work within the next 31 days (earning the equivalent of 16 hours at national minimum / living wage). Both partners must each have an adjusted net income of £100,000 or less per annum.
  • WAC provider must be Ofsted, or equivalent, registered. Including schools and childminders.

Application updates on the pilot areas:

Further information on WAC can be viewed on the WAC portal on Defence Intranet or on Defence Connect (sign-in required).

How to claim/payment journey

Check if you are eligible for WAC funding at the Discover My Benefits website.

Who to contact if you have questions

Contact your unit HR team or admin office for any queries about claims. If you have questions about the policy contact

United Kingdom (UK)

There are a number of childcare options for parents to choose from. Parents should go to Childcare Choices for further information and guidance on all available government childcare schemes.


From September 2017, working parents in England with children aged 3 and 4 years old, are entitled to 30 hours free childcare.

You can also check to see if you’re eligible for Tax-Free Childcare (TFC). You can get TFC at the same time as 30 hours free childcare if you’re eligible for both.


For the current childcare offer in Scotland, parents should visit Parent Club or for information about early learning and childcare (ELC).


For the current childcare offer in Wales parents should visit the Welsh Government website for further information and guidance.

Northern Ireland

For the current childcare offer in Northern Ireland, parents should contact 38 (Irish) Brigade at for further information and guidance.

Returning from overseas or moving within the UK

30 hours free childcare codes are not valid overseas.

If you are returning from overseas or moving within the UK, please visit the 30 hours free childcare page to find out what is available in your area. The application process and deadlines may vary.

Parents who are due to return to England, after a term deadline, but are aware of this move prior to a term deadline, can apply for a manual 30 hours code for their return. Parents must call the Childcare Service helpline on 0300 123 4097 and request a manual application.

HMRC will determine eligibility for the scheme by completing a manual application at the time of the call. If all eligibility criteria are met, the parent will need to provide HMRC with evidence of returning to England. This evidence will be in the form of an assignment order or civilian posting notice.

When this document is received and verified by HMRC, the parent will be issued with a manual 30 hours code to the email address supplied when completing the application. HMRC will provide details of where to send documents at time of application.

The 30 hours code can be given to the childcare provider prior to, or, upon their return to England. You can read 30 hours free childcare 2021DIN01-085 for more information and to apply.


In overseas locations, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) provides services (or access to services) that, so far as is reasonably practicable, conform in type, scope and standard to that required by legislation in England.

Parents will have access to the following:

15 and 30 hours free childcare

In MOD nursery settings overseas parents with children aged 3 and 4 years old can access 15 or 30 hours free childcare (depending on eligibility). 30 hours free childcare 2021DIN01-085 applies when registering for the additional entitlement. (DINs are only accessible by MOD personnel.)

Applications should be forwarded to the relevant setting or school for approval and recording.

Overseas Nursery Authority (ONA)

Parents of 3 and 4 year-olds in overseas locations, where MOD schools and settings are not available, can apply for reimbursement of nursery fees by means of ONA 2022DIN01-008.

Childcare Vouchers

The Childcare Voucher scheme is a salary sacrifice scheme, which closed to new joiners in October 2018.

Parents can visit the MOD childcare website for more information about the Childcare Voucher scheme. DIN 2017DIN01-092 (service personnel) or DIN 2008DIN01-176 (civilians) apply.

Childcare vouchers can only be used at nurseries or childminders that are MOD approved, regulated and inspected.

Tax-Free Childcare

Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) is a new government scheme introduced on 21 April 2017 to help working parents with the cost of childcare and will, over time, replace the armed forces Childcare Voucher Scheme. Parents have the option to open an online account, which they can use to pay for childcare from an accredited and registered provider.

Parents can visit the Childcare Choices website to register. For further information you can visit Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) and you can also use this step by step guide to claiming TFC.

TFC can only be used at nurseries or childminders that are MOD approved (regulated and inspected). There are also some rest of the world locations where TFC is not currently available. DIN 2021DIN01-075 applies.

Universal Infant Free School Meals

The Department of Education announced that from September 2014 funding would be made available to enable state funded schools in England to offer a free meal to every primary school pupil in Reception classes, Year 1 and Year 2.

Service children in schools overseas in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 or their national equivalent are entitled to a free school meal. In some locations the schools will provide the meal but in others this may not be possible due to local conditions or restrictions. This provision is offered in line with English government legislation. 2022DIN01-009 applies.

Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)

Details of how to apply for TFC/30 hours when in receipt of Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP) will appear here in due course.

Published 3 October 2018
Last updated 10 November 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added links to the 2 new cluster forms.

  2. Updated the wraparound childcare section to include information on Lincolnshire and Woolwich pilots.

  3. Updated the wraparound childcare section.

  4. New DIN links have been added for: 30 Hours Free Childcare, Tax-Free Childcare, Overseas Nursery Authority and Universal Infant Free School Meals.

  5. Updated: RAF pilot with wraparound childcare DIN 2021DIN01-046.

  6. Added a link to DIN 2020DIN01-118 (Catterick wraparound childcare pilot information).

  7. Added wraparound childcare application forms for Plymouth and Catterick areas.

  8. Added a note to confirm that information about phase 2 of the WAC pilot (Plymouth and Catterick) will be available soon.

  9. Updated the details under the 'Scotland' heading.

  10. Updated the information under the Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP) heading.

  11. Added an application form for wraparound childcare.

  12. Added a short announcement about the Free ‘wraparound’ childcare for the armed forces.

  13. Added a new weblink and updated the text under Overseas Nursery Allowance (ONA).

  14. Updated with latest information including a section on Armed Forces Independence Payments (AFIP).

  15. Added a link to the step by step Tax-Free Children guidance page.

  16. Updated the page with more information regarding Tax free childcare.

  17. Updated internal links and the link to Welsh Government website.

  18. Added a section on returning from overseas or moving within the UK.

  19. First published.