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3 & 4 Year Old Funding: 15 and 30 hour offers


Coronavirus Update re 30 hours free childcare and/or tax-free childcare (PDF 85KB)


15 Hour Offer - all children

All 3 and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to 570 hours of free early years education. You can start receiving funding the term after your child turns 3.  The date this starts will depend on when your child's birthday is.  Please see the chart below to see when your child can start.  More details are available in the blue drop-down sections below.

30 Hour Offer - many children from working families only

Many children from working families may also be eligible for the 30 hour funding offer.

30 hours free childcare – applications
HMRC are encouraging parents who want to take up a 30 hours place
to apply in good time.

30 hour applications need to be made the term before childcare is required.
HMRC occasionally require more information from the parent/carer to check whether
they’re eligible for the 30 hour offer, so time should be allowed for this to ensure a valid code is received well ahead of the term deadline. See dates below.

Please also see the section on 30 Hour Funded Early Education/Childcare below for details.

When can my child start receiving 3 & 4 year Old Funding? 

Child's 3rd birthday When your child can start
1 January - 31 March Summer term
(1 April - 31 August)
1 April - 31 August Autumn term
(1 September - 31 December)
1 September - 31 December Spring term
(1 January - 31 March)

If you would like your child to attend a pre-school or other provider before their 3 year old funding starts you will need to pay until your child is eligible for the funding, unless your child is eligible for a funded 2 year old place.

The government is introducing new ways to help parents with childcare costs. 
Whether you have toddlers or teens, you could get support.

Tax-free childcare:  Tax-Free Childcare is available to nearly two million households to help with the cost of childcare, enabling more parents to go out to work, if they want to, to provide greater security for their families.

Check out your options for help with paying for childcare on the Childcare Choices webpage.

Childcare Choices (Polskie)  Childcare Choices (PDF 328KB)
(Courtesy of Somerset County Council) 

How many hours of early education funding can my child have?

Your child is entitled to 570 hours of early education.

This can be used across a minimum of 38 weeks, and a maximum of 15 hours per week. For many children this will mean 3 hours a day during school term times.

You can 'stretch' your child's entitlement by taking fewer hours a week over more weeks of the year, where the provider has capacity to offer this.

The following standards apply:

  • no session to be longer than 10 hours
  • no minimum session length (subject to the requirements of registration on the Ofsted Early Years Register)
  • not before 6.00am or after 8.00pm
  • a maximum of two sites in a single day

You will need to speak to your chosen provider about the availability and times of sessions available.

From September 2017 the Government has doubled this entitlement up to 30 hours per week or 1140 hours per year for children where their parents meet certain criteria.  Please see the section below on 30 hours funded early education/childcare.

30 Hours Funded Early Education/Childcare

All three and four year olds are entitled to up to 15 hours of funded early education or childcare a week, for up to 38 weeks a year, or 570 hours a year.  From September 2017 the Government has doubled this entitlement up to 30 hours per week or 1140 hours per year for children where their parents meet the criteria listed below.  Details of how to apply can also be found below.

30 hours funding is available to eligible children in the term after their 3rd birthday or anytime afterwards until they start school.  If eligible, you will be issued with a code which you can take to your chosen childcare provider.  Childcare providers must be pre-registered for Early Years Funding in order to offer 30 hours funding.  Please check that your chosen provider will be registered before taking up a place with them.

Please note that 30 hours funding must be applied for and the application processed in order for the relevant code to be received by the parent/carer in the term before you wish the child to take up the funded place.   This is regardless of whether the child is already 3 or 4 years old.  30 hour funding is unable to be issued retrospectively.  Your child can start in the term following the receipt of the 30 hour code eg from 1st January, Ist April or 1st September.  Your eligibility for 30 hour funding must be re-confirmed every 3 months.

Child's 3rd birthday

When your child can start 30 hours

When you should apply for your 30 hour code

 1 January -
 31  March

 Or any time
 after until they
 start school

 Summer term
 (1 April - 31 August)

 January – March

 It is recommended to apply by end
 of February

 You need to have received your
 code by 31st March to start in April

 1 April - 
 31 August

 Or any time
 after until they
 start school

 Autumn term
 (1 September - 31 December)


 April – August

 It is recommended to apply by end
 of June

 You need to have received your
 code by 31st August to start in

 1 September -
 31 December

 Or any time
 after until they
 start school

 Spring term
 (1 January - 31 March)

 September – December

 It is recommended to apply by end
 of November

 You need to have received your
 code by 31st December to start in

Eligible children are, aged 3 and 4 years in families, where:

- both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family)
- each parent (or the sole parent in a lone parent family), earns on average, a weekly   minimum equivalent to 16 hours per week at national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW), and less than £100,000 per year.

Parents (mothers/fathers/other carers) will not necessarily need to actually work 16 hours a week, but rather their earnings must reflect at least 16 hours p.w. of work at NMW or NLW. This means that a working parent who is over 25 will need to earn a weekly minimum equivalent of around £125.28 whereas a working parent who is 21 will need to earn a weekly minimum equivalent of around £118.08 (for the 2018/19 tax year). Parents on zero contract hours who meet the eligbility criteria are included in the entitlement criteria.

HMRC has created a joint online application for 30 hours and Tax Free Childcare (which will replace the childcare voucher schemes).  Parents can visit the GOV.UK website to register. 

Find out if you are eligible for the extra 15 hours a week, term-time, or 570 hours a year, of funded early education for your 3 and 4 year olds. This 30 Hours Eligibility Guide gives an overview on who is eligible.

I have already applied for an account with HMRC - How can I access it?

30 Hours and/or Tax-free Childcare - Information for parents: How parents who have applied for 30 hours already can access their account with the HMRC Childcare Service (PDF 338KB).

I have had technical issues trying to access the 30 hour offer

If haven’t been able to complete your application and get your 30 hours free childcare code for technical reasons, you should call HMRC on 0300 123 4097.

Guidance has been published by HM Revenue & Customs on 11 August 2017.

Where can my child take up their early education place?

The free early education and childcare can be taken in a variety of settings in Southampton:

  • school nursery class
  • nurseries or pre-schools on school sites
  • independent schools
  • nurseries or pre-schools in Children’s Centres
  • day nurseries
  • pre-schools
  • childminders (childminders cannot be funded for a child to whom they are related)

All settings that offer nursery education must be registered with Ofsted. Providers of funded early education places are usually judged as good or outstanding. Some settings with less than good or outstanding may be able to offer sessions.

You can use your entitlement at more than one provider, for example using a group provider and a childminder. We strongly recommend that you consider the impact on continuity of care for children when enabling children to take up their early education place at more than one provider, as some children find this very unsettling.

Settings may be run by private, voluntary, independent or maintained providers.

Does my child have to take up their funded hours of education?

Your child does not legally have to attend any type of education until the term after their 5th birthday. However, this is a very important stage for your child as it helps get them ready for school as well as preparing them for their future learning and successes.

From when your child is born up until the age of 5, their early years experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure, and support their development, care and learning needs. Attending an early years setting will ensure that you and your child are supported during this important period.

You can choose to use only part of your entitlement e.g. 2 sessions per week.

Will I have to pay anything towards my child's place?

Funding is paid directly to the childcare provider. You will be asked by the provider to complete a declaration form. If you need to pay fees for the additional services provided (for example, if a nursery is looking after your child for more than the funded 15 or 30 hours in a week), the funding will be passed to you as a saving on your fees.

The 30 hours free childcare offer is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables (such as nappies or sun cream), additional hours or additional activities (such as trips). Providers may charge a fee for these additions. If you choose to pay for these it is an arrangement between you and the childcare provider. However, you must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a 30 hours place, and must be offered alternative options.

Your childcare provider or the Family Information Service can give you more information about any additional fees and charges which may be payable.

Where can I get information to help me choose?

To get a place for your child, you will need to find a setting suitable for you and your child. You can search this directory for settings, or contact the Family Information Service on  023 8083 3014.

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