Help with Childcare Costs

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You can find a straightforward explanation of all government childcare support on the Childcare Choices website:

Childcare Choices brings all the government childcare offers together providing a simple way of seeing which schemes are available, with easy next steps to where you can find out more.

What is available through Childcare Choices?

** Tax-Free Childcare **
Tax Free Childcare is an online payment account, topped up by the Government, which parents use solely to pay their childcare costs. For every £8 that families pay in, the Government will make a top-up payment of £2, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year (or £4,000 for disabled children).

It can pay for:

  • registered childminders, nurseries and nannies
  • registered breakfast, after-school clubs and playschemes, holiday schemes
  • registered schools (not including school fees, unless your child is below the compulsory school age)
  • homecare workers working for a registered homecare agency.

You can use Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as using 15 hours or 30 hours free childcare.

However, you can’t use Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as:

  • Universal Credit
  • Tax credits
  • Childcare Vouchers.

Who can get it?

To qualify, a parent or parents normally need to:

  • Be working and have children under 12 – or under 17 if your child has a disability. They stop being eligible on 1 September after the child’s 11th birthday. Adopted children qualify, but foster children don’t
  • Earn at least £183 a week on average each. This is equivalent to 16 hours at the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.
  • Have no more than £100,000 adjusted net income per year, per parent.
  • Be employed or self-employed. If you or your partner are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave you might still qualify. You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.

Do you have caring responsibilities, or are ill or disabled and so not able to work? Then you’ll still qualify for a childcare account if one parent is in work and the other isn’t able to work and receives any of the following benefits:

  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit or long-term Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • National insurance credits because of incapacity or limited capability for work

You must ‘reconfirm’ your eligibility every three months. You should get a reminder message to do this. You can do this using your online childcare account.

Apply for Tax-Free Childcare

** 15 & 30 hours funded childcare **

  • Up to 15 hours of early education over 38 weeks of the year for 2 year olds.
  • Up to 30 hours of early education over 38 weeks of the year for 3-4 year olds.
  • Can used flexibly with one or more childcare providers.
  • Some providers will allow you to ‘stretch’ the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week

Where can my child go?

View the list of Day Nurseries, Playgroups, Childminders and schools who provide funded childcare.  Not all childminders are on the Family Service Directory, for a full list contact the Family Information Service:

Tel: 01642 354200

When to apply

You can apply from when your child is 1 years and 36 weeks old.

When your child turns 2

When they can get funded hours from

Code MUST be applied for before

 1 September - 31 December     

the term starting on or after 1st January  

 31st December   

 1 January - 31 March

the term starting on or after 1st April

 31st March

 1 April - 31 August

 the term starting on or after 1st September       

 31st August

If eligible, you will need to make sure that your child is registered and attending your chosen childcare setting before the following headcount dates, in order for the setting to claim the funding from the Local Authority.

  • Spring Term (2024) headcount 18th January 2024
  • Summer Term (2024) headcount 16th May 2024
  • Autumn Term (2024) headcount  3rd October 2024

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 for 15 & 30 hours Funded Childcare

** Funded Childcare for Children in Foster Care **

Children in foster care are entitled up to 30 hours funded childcare giving foster families the same support as other families.

Children in foster care who are aged 3 and 4 years old will be able to receive 30 hours funded childcare, if the following criteria are met:

  • Accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan; and
  • Where these is a single foster family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside of their role as a foster parent; or
  • Where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside of their role as a foster parent.

Accessing 30 hours will not be appropriate for every child in foster care.  This change is to enable those foster parents who are engaging in paid work outside of their role as a foster parent to access this support where it is right for the child.

The foster parent does not have to take up the full 30 hours.  There is no requirement on the type of work (which includes self-employment) or number of hours that a foster parent must work in order to access the 30 hours and there is no minimum earnings limit (although they must be engaging in paid work).

Foster parents can claim 30 hours the term after their foster child turns three and they have received an eligibility code from the local authority.

For further information read the documents on the right or contact 01642 354200.  To apply, contact your Social Worker to complete an application form.

For more information about future funding visit the Childcare Choices Website

** From September 2024 **

Up to 15 hours for eligible working families in England with a child 9 months + . 

  • From Sept 2024 - Up to 15 hours for eligible working families in England with a child between 9 and 23 months old. Apply for your code from 12th May.
  • To be eligible for a code, parents will need to earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at national minimum wage and less than £100,000 adjusted net income per year.
  • Parents applying for free childcare from September have until 31st August to apply.
  • Parents will be able to complete an application 16 weeks before their child turns 9 months. If they apply before this time, they will only be able to apply for Tax-Free Childcare.
  • Parents who currently use Tax Free Childcare will be asked at the next 3 month confirmation whether they want to apply for the 2 yar old funding and they can't apply until then. 
  • Further information about eligibility and when to apply can be found here

Who to contact

Help with Childcare Costs website
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Page last reviewed: 10/04/2024


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