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30 hours free early education and childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds (extended entitlement)

All three and four-year-old children are entitled to a universal early education place, which provides up to 570 hours of free nursery education per year.  Further information can be found here

Children in some families will now be entitled to an additional 15 hours of free childcare, otherwise known as the '30 Hours Childcare or Extended Entitlement'.

Eligibility for 30 hours and Tax Free Childcare protected (5 May 2020)

The government has announced that any working parent usually eligible for 30 hours childcare or Tax-Free Childcare will remain eligible if they fall below the minimum income requirement due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Subject to Parliamentary approval, parents who are critical workers will also remain eligible for these entitlements if their income has increased over the maximum threshold during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  This temporary flexibility will ensure critical workers can continue to access the childcare they need to enable them to work. These arrangements will be reviewed over the summer.  This announcement can be found here:


Tax-Free Childcare during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Find out about temporary changes that may affect you if you're applying for, or already getting, Tax-Free Childcare or 30 hours free childcare.


  1. If you’re on furlough
  2. If you’re not able to work or you’re working less
  3. If you’re self-employed
  4. If you missed the 31 March deadline
  5. If you’re a critical worker
  6. Apply or reconfirm

To help make sure critical workers can continue to access the childcare they need to enable them to work, even if their circumstances have changed during coronavirus (COVID-19), we have made some temporary changes.

This guidance will be updated when these changes end.

Temporary changes have been made to the eligibility criteria for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare, during coronavirus.

The changes may affect you if you, or someone you live with, are:

  • on furlough
  • not able to work or you’re working less
  • self-employed
  • a critical worker

If you’re on furlough

If your employer has no work for you they might be able to keep you on the payroll and put you on temporary leave instead. This is known as being put ‘on furlough’ and you’re paid 80% of wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

You should apply, or reconfirm if you already have a childcare account, if your wage, and your partner’s wage if you have one, is:

  • at least the National Minimum Wage for 16 hours a week
  • below the normal minimum income requirement, but you’d normally expect to meet the income requirement

If you’re not able to work or you’re working less

You should apply or reconfirm if you already have a childcare account if you’re:

  • getting sick pay or statutory sick pay (SSP) – time spent on sick pay or SSP will count as working and meeting the minimum income requirement
  • taking unpaid leave to care for others, such as your children - if you expect your income to meet the minimum income requirement (at least the National Minimum Wage for 16 hours a week) after coronavirus
  • living with someone who has coronavirus - you must stay at home - if you expect your income to meet the minimum income agreement (at least the National Minimum Wage for 16 hours a week) after coronavirus
  • working less, your hours have been reduced and your wage:
    • meets the minimum earnings requirement
    • is below the normal minimum earnings requirement but you would normally expect to earn above it

If you’re made redundant

If you’re made redundant you’re not eligible to apply or reconfirm you have a childcare account because you’re:

  • no longer in work
  • not meeting the minimum income requirement

If you start employment again and expect to earn above the minimum income requirement you can apply 31 days before you start your new job.

If you’re self-employed

You should apply or reconfirm if you already have a childcare account if you are:

  • continuing to work, and your earnings:
    • are above the minimum earnings requirement
    • are below the normal minimum earnings requirement but you would normally expect to earn above it
  • not able to get work because of coronavirus:
    • you may be eligible to claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - payments made to you through the scheme will count as earnings
    • and you’re not eligible for self-employed income support but would expect to earn at least the minimum income requirement

If you’re claiming Universal Credit

If you are now claiming Universal Credit and were getting:

  • Tax-Free Childcare, you cannot apply or reconfirm for Tax-Free Childcare - if you stop claiming Universal Credit you can apply for Tax-Free Childcare again
  • 30 hours free childcare, and you meet the revised minimum income requirement or would expect to normally, you should apply or reconfirm if you already have a childcare account

If you missed the 31 March deadline

If you’ve missed the application or reconfirmation deadline for 30 hours free childcare, you should apply or reconfirm if you already have a childcare account.

Local authorities will be able to extend the validity dates on 30 hours codes for eligible critical worker parents during the summer term.

If you’re a critical worker

If you’re working more

If you’re a critical worker you may have exceeded the maximum income threshold of £100,000 per year. If this is because of increased hours as a direct result of coronavirus, you’ll still be eligible for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare for the current tax year.

Apply or reconfirm

Find out about Tax-Free Childcare and how to apply.

Find out about 30 hours free childcare and how to apply.

Sign in to your childcare account to confirm your details.

For further information, please visit:


Is my child eligible for the 30 hours early education and childcare?

You may be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare if your circumstances are as follows:

  • Both parents are earning or expect to earn the equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum or Living Wage over the coming three months
  • This equates to £120 a week (around £6,240 per year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112.80 (around £5,800 per year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old
  • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on a zero hours contract
  • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work
  • Where one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or if they are on statutory sick leave
  • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work
  • Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (i.e. they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.
  • If a non-EEA national, the parent must have recourse to public funds.

Who will not qualify?

A parent will not meet the criteria when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000
  • Either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control (and has no recourse to public funds)

What happens if a parent loses eligibility?

  • They will receive a “grace period” – this means they will be able to keep their childcare for a short period.

Once the “grace period” has lapsed, the child will be entitled to the universal 15 hour entitlement.

Please have a look at the following documents for further details:

Eligibility for the 30 hrs early education and childcare

Information on 30 hours and tax-free childcare

How do I check my eligibility and get a code?

Eligibility will be checked by HMRC via a website  and will be based on actual income earned.

How do I apply?

  • Parents must apply directly to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) not the Local Authority or the Childcare Provider
  • Parents can now apply for places either through an online application system via the Childcare Choices website: and click on section 4: ‘Apply or sign in to the childcare service as a parent’. 

     Or by phone at the Customer Interaction Centre (which should also be used if you have any queries):

     Tel: 0300 123 4097

In order to apply you will need the following to hand for you and (if relevant) your partner:

  • your National Insurance number
  • if you're self-employed, your Unique Taxpayer Reference

You're sent a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) when you first register for Self Assessment. Your UTR is on notices to file a tax return or payment reminders sent to you by HM Revenue and Customs. Look for a 10-digit number, sometimes with a letter 'K' on the end. It's sometimes just called 'tax reference':

  • the date you started, or are due to start work
  • details of any other government support you get

     The application process for the 30 hours extended free entitlement and Tax Free Childcare will be aligned so a parent need only apply once to HMRC for both schemes:

  • If eligible, HMRC will set up a secure account for parents and the parent will receive an eligibility code to their secure account.

  • Accessing your account

  • There will be an eligibility code per parent / child combination, therefore multiple birth siblings will each have their own code

  • Parents will take their code to an approved childcare provider or school nursery of their choice to show they are eligible for the additional 15 hours’ free childcare.  Your early years provider will also need to see a copy of your child’s birth certificate (if not already [provided) and will ask you to sign a declaration form

  • Your childcare provider will then validate your code and allocate your place

  • For children who may be eligible from September 2022, parents will need to apply for a 30 Hours funded place by 31 July 2022.

  • Your childcare account journey

Providers are funded on a termly basis and eligible children need to be accessing their place by headcount data each term in order for the funding to be accessed.  Please contact your providers to clarify this data but if your child is attending from the beginning of each term they are likely to be there on this termly date.

When to apply?

When to apply

You can apply from when your child is 2 years and 36 weeks old.   

When your child turns 3 

When they can get 30 hours from

Recommended time to apply

1 September to 31 December

1 January

15 October to 30 November

1 January to 31 March

1 April

15 January to 28 February

1 April to 31 August

1 September

15 June to 31 July


You can apply outside of these recommended dates but you might not receive your code in time.

You must have a valid code by the end of the month before a new term starts.

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.


How do I confirm my eligibility every 3 months?

    • HMRC will manage the application process and send out reminders to parents about the need to reconfirm their eligibility.  Parents should receive two reminders to reconfirm (4 weeks and 2 weeks before their reconfirmation deadline).  If a parent’s details have not changed, they only need to tick a box in their childcare service account to confirm their details remain the same.

    • If a parent misses the reconfirmation deadline, they will receive a message telling them that they are no longer eligible for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare.

    • The eligibility code for a parent / child combination will not change over time even if its validity lapses and a new application is submitted.

    • If a parent’s circumstances change and they are no longer eligible for the additional 15 hours of free childcare, a ‘grace period’ will apply so that children can continue with their free place for a short period of time, whilst alternate arrangements can be made.

    • If a parent’s circumstances change again whilst they are in the grace period, they may reapply to HMRC and become eligible again.

    • If you are no longer eligible, you can still access the 15-hour universal early education entitlement for 3 and 4-year-olds. 

    • Tips for using the 30 hrs funded early education and childcare

    When can my child access these additional hours?

    The term from which a child can access their extended entitlement is the same as the terms for children accessing the 15-hour universal entitlement

    The table below shows when a child becomes eligible:

    A child born between

    …is eligible for an extended entitlement place…

    1 April and 31 August

    From the start of the autumn term (September to December) following their third birthday until statutory school age.

    1 September and 31 December

    From the start of the spring term (January to March) following their third birthday until statutory school age.

    1 January and 31 March

    From the start of the summer term (April to August) following their third birthday until statutory school age.

    Providers offering 30 hours funded places for 3 & 4 year-olds

    Providers participating in the scheme include:

    • private nursery schools
    • private or voluntary pre-schools or playgroups
    • private or voluntary day nurseries
    • nursery units of independent schools
    • nursery classes in primary schools
    • childminders

    To access a list of participating providers click here.

    What do I do if there is a problem with my account? Who do I contact?

    Contact the 'Childcare Choices' Customer Interaction Centre (which should also be used if you have any queries):

    Tel: 0300 123 4097

    Other FAQs

    Does my child have to take up the full 30 hours?

    It is the parents’ choice whether you wish to take up the full extended entitlement and this should be discussed with your chosen provider.  You may be attending a provider who provides all year round care and therefore the entitlement will be stretched over the full number of weeks that the provider operates.

    Can I share my 30 hours across more than one childcare provider?

    You can use the additional 15 hours a week for your child to attend a breakfast club, after school club or with a childminder.


    How flexibly can I use my 30 hours childcare and can I use it across more than one provider?

    Your child is entitled to access up to 30 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, which is equivalent of a total of 1140 hours per year.  This entitlement can be stretched over the full number of weeks a provider is open.  You may be able to choose a different pattern of attendance depending on which school / childcare provider you choose to use.

    There are some conditions related to flexibility

    • no session is 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

    Your first choice of school/childcare provider might not be able to offer the full 30 hours.  In that case you can nominate up to three childcare providers for the delivery of their entitlement, but the government has set a maximum of two sites that can be used in a single day to deliver the childcare.

    You are also able to use the 15 hours’ extra hours before and after school and during school holidays, again depending on which school / childcare provider may offer this and you choose to use (including childminders).

    Do all school and childcare providers have to deliver the 30 hours free childcare?

    It is not the law nor compulsory for schools or childcare providers to offer the additional 15 hours over and above the current 15 hours’ entitlement for all 3 and 4 year olds.  It is the school / childcare providers’ individual choice whether they provide places for the additional 15 hours, not the choice of the Royal Borough.

    The local authority has a duty to ensure your child can access a place but such places cannot be guaranteed at a particular provider.

    The Royal Borough provides support and guidance to schools and providers to enable them to do so if they wish.

    There may be good reasons why the School/ Provider does not offer the additional 15 hours:

    • They may not have any spare nursery places for 3 & 4 year olds or the capacity to create new places or operate for longer hours.
    • Some schools / childcare providers that already offer a flexible choice for parents may review what they currently provide and feel the impact of changing what they offer to include the additional 15 hours free childcare would be detrimental to their current service.
    • There may be a cost / sustainability factor for them to take into consideration.

    Any provider wishing to participate in the extended entitlement will be encouraged to do so and will be added to the directory of participating providers.

    Contact us

    If you have any other questions, please do contact a member or the Kensington and Chelsea Family Information Service by emailing:; or calling: 07814 804262.

    Last Updated 14/10/2021

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