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A guide to 15 hours free childcare

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With the Government introducing new schemes of early years funding for eligible children in the UK, it’s easy to get lost in the details. Here, we share what you need to know and how you can apply.

What is the new funding?

From 12th May 2024, those families who are eligible can apply to receive 15 funded hours of childcare from the term after their child turns 9 months. The funded hours are stretched across 38 weeks of term time.

This scheme runs in parallel with the existing schemes that provide 15 funded hours for 2+ year olds and 15 and 30 funded hours for 3+ year olds.

When does the new funding take effect?

The 15 hours of free childcare will come into effect from September 2024. Thereafter, the funded hours will apply in the term following your child turning 9 months.

Term start dates are typically 1st January, 1st April and 1st September. There may be variations at specific nurseries, so please speak to your Nursery Manager.

How do I know if I am eligible for 15 hours free childcare?

The quickest and best way to check if you are eligible, is by visiting https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/

There is set criteria for eligibility and these are:

  • Your child’s age and circumstances

From September 2024, you’ll be able to access 15 hours of free childcare for your child from the age of 9 months if you’re working. 

If you foster your child, you can claim 15 funded hours providing you are working outside of your fostering role and your adjusted net income is less than £100,000. Fostering parents must speak to their social worker or Local Authority in order to apply.

  • Your employment status (employed, self-employed, or a director)

You may be eligible for the 15 funded hours if you (and your partner, if you have one) are in work, on sick leave or annual leave, and/or are on shared parental leave, maternity, paternity or adoption leave.

If you’re not currently working, you may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you are on carer’s leave or if you receive other Government allowances or benefits.

  • Your income (and your partner’s income, if you have one)

How much you and/or your partner earn will determine whether or not you are eligible to access the 15 hours of funding. As part of the application process, you will be asked to state your and your partner’s (if you have one) earnings for the next three months, before tax. Should you or your partner have an expected adjusted net income of over £100,000 in the current tax year, you will not be eligible.

  • Your immigration status

To be eligible for the 15 hours of funding for working parents, you and your partner (if you have one) must have a National Insurance number. The person making the application must also have at least one of the following:

  • British or Irish citizenship
  • Settled or pre-settled status
  • Permission to access public funds

What should I do if I qualify for funding?

Once you have completed the Government’s application process and been notified that you are eligible for the 15 hours of funded childcare, you should give the code in your online Government childcare account to your Nursery Manager.

You will need to reapply for funding eligibility every three months – this is a legal requirement from HMRC. The eligibility code will not change over time.

Where can I see what the new fees will be?

Parents can see their revised fees by visiting their local nursery page.

What to do if your circumstances change or you weren’t eligible in the first instance

Sometimes a parent’s circumstances can change at a later date, or you may have been unsuccessful in your initial funding application. In this case, you may reapply to HMRC to check your eligibility.

Read more about funding

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