You may already be aware that changes to the funded childcare hours will be coming into play in April 2024.
In this article, we will look at how childcare funding currently works for parents living in England; what are the changes; how they will affect you; and what you need to do to apply for your child’s free childcare hours.
We’ll also provide useful links that provide extra advice and support on the free childcare provision.
How it currently works
Currently, there are 3 types of funded childcare available; 15 hours for 3-4 year olds; 30 hours for 3-4 year olds; and 15 hours for 2 year olds. All of these, and also the new types of funding coming in over 2024 and 2025, apply from the term after the one where your child becomes the qualifying age.
Let’s take a quick look at these: (for a more in-depth explanation, please visit our Funded Hours for Childcare page)
15 hours for 3-4-year-olds
This entitlement is for ALL families
15 hours per week for 38 weeks (or 570 hours that can be ‘stretched’ over 52 weeks - only some providers offer this option)
30 hours for 3-4-year-olds
Eligible for working families
Up to 30 hours over 38 weeks (or 1,140 hours that can be ‘stretched’ over 52 weeks - only some providers offer this option)
The 30 hours consists of the 15 hours as above, plus the extra 15 early education hours
15 hours for 2-year-olds
Available for families receiving additional forms of government support (e.g. income support, universal credit, child tax credit, working tax credit) Further information available at Gov.uk
Entitlement for children that are looked after by a local authority; have an education, health and care plan; receive disability living allowance; or are under an adoption order, special guardianship order, or a child arrangements order.
15 hours of childcare over 38 weeks (or 570 hours ‘stretched over 52 weeks - only some providers offer this option)
For working families (including self-employed) earning under £100K
For families that are not receiving Tax Credits, Universal Credits, or childcare vouchers
For families with children aged 0-11 (or 0-16 if disabled)
For every £8 you pay into your online account, the government will top up with an extra £2 (up to £2,000 per child, per year)
Further information available at Gov.uk/apply-for-tax-free-childcare
For more information on support while studying and other funding, please visit Childcare Choices.
Changes coming into force
The 15 hours of free childcare for 2-year-olds will now be available for working families in England.
This entitlement will follow the same principles as the current 30 hours of childcare funding for 3-5 year olds whereby you will need an HMRC code to apply. This code will need to be shared with your chosen childcare provider in order to receive the funding.
Applications to get the code for this entitlement from HMRC will open on Tuesday 2nd January 2024. You must apply before the 31st of March for your child to begin using the funded hours in April 2024. You must then reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. Applications for this first stage can be done via www.childcarechoices.gov.uk (please note, you must have a Government Childcare Choices Account set up).
15 hours available for working families extended to include those with a child between 9 and 23 months old.
Again, a code from HMRC will be needed to claim these free childcare hours. We should know more about this in late summer and will share any additional information we receive.
30 hours of funded childcare available for working families in England with a child from 9 months to school age.
This means that working families can claim free childcare from the age of 9 months (30 hours), and families receiving additional government support can also apply from 2 years old (15 hours).
There is a great visual to help explain this over at Childcare Choices upcoming changes.
What does all this mean for you?
If you are in any of the categories we’ve mentioned and would like to apply for childcare funding, don’t hesitate. Apply as soon as you can.
As we mentioned, applications to HMRC for the code for the 15 hours for 2-year-olds for working families will open on Tuesday 2nd January.
Please head over to www.childcarechoices.gov.uk for further updates, advice and support.
You must apply the term before you want your child to start the childcare funding. We have seen parents miss out on free childcare because the application was not submitted until the term began. This is too late. You must apply the term before.
In addition, for parents claiming for the 30-hour funded childcare, you must reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months, or your code will expire. You should receive a reminder for this from HMRC.
We hope you have found this information on the current and changes to the free childcare hours helpful. Please share with anyone you think will benefit from this information.