Help paying for childcare

2. 15 and 30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get free early education or childcare.

Some 2-year-olds are also eligible, for example if you get certain benefits.

The free early education and childcare:

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

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

15 hours free childcare

All children in England get 570 free hours per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but you can choose to take fewer hours over more weeks, for example.

You can get it from the term after your child’s 3rd birthday.

Contact your childcare provider or local council to find out more.

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 you’re eligible for the extra hours, you sign up online to get a code to give to your childcare provider to reserve your place. You’ll get the extra hours once the next term starts.

Apply by 31 December to get a code to use for the term starting in January.

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

Eligibility

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 - this is £120 if you’re over 25

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

You’re not eligible if:

  • your child doesn’t usually live with you
  • the child is your foster child
  • either you or your partner has a taxable income over £100,000

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

If you can’t work

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.

Apply for 30 hours free childcare

You’ll need your details (and your partner’s, if you have one), including your:

  • National Insurance number
  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed

You’ll find out if you’re eligible as part of your application. It usually takes 20 minutes to complete.

You’ll get a childcare account if your application is successful. You can use it to get your code for 30 hours free childcare.

If you pay for childcare and want to use Tax-Free Childcare to get help with costs, you can also apply using this service.