The 30 hours free childcare scheme: When does it launch and how can I apply?

Back in March, the Government announced their plans to double the amount of free childcare available to pre-primary school age children by the end of September.

As many families will know, juggling childcare with earning enough to stay afloat is one of the most challenging parts of parenthood. But the new scheme could mean that some families are entitled to 30 hours a week of free childcare.

Read on for everything you need to know about the 30 hours free childcare scheme and whether or not your family is eligible.

What is the 30 hours free childcare scheme?

The current allotted amount of free childcare per week for working families is 15 hours. During the Spring Budget announcements, Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond made the announcement that the government plans to double that amount, to 30 hours, for parents with a weekly income of roughly £240.

The extra hours will be available for 38 weeks of the year – equivalent to school term times – and will be redeemable at existing childcare services including nurseries, playgroups and childminders.

Am I entitled to the 30 hours free childcare scheme?

Although all families are entitled to the 15 free hours currently available, not everyone is eligible for the extra hours. If your child is not yet three years of age on or before the 31st August, or if they are over the age of four on the same date, then the hours will not apply to them.

It’s also important to remember that you and your partner must earn a combined income equivalent to 16 hours per week on minimum wage to be eligible for the scheme. This equates to £120 a week (or around £6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old or £112.80 a week (around £5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old.

If one parent is not working, your family won’t be eligible for the scheme.

How do I apply for the 30 hours free childcare scheme?

Pre-registration is now open at the official GOV.UK website. You’ll need to confirm you live in England and the birth date of your child(ren). If you meet the eligibility criteria, you’ll then be forwarded information about the registration process once the scheme goes live in your area.

Once the system is set up and running, the successful candidates will be given a code which can then be brought along to a local childcare provider, and they or the council will be able to check it’s authentic before you can access the extra 15 hours.

Important things to keep in mind

  • This is a scheme for working parents – which is why you won’t be eligible if only one of you works. Similarly, if one parent loses their job, you will no longer be eligible for the scheme
  • Pilot schemes in parts of the UK are revealing some fundamental flaws – namely that if the money isn’t coming from the government, it has to come out of the pockets of working parents! Some nurseries that had been enrolled in the pilot admitted to having to charge extra for younger children, charge for meals, and ask for daily ‘donations’ from parents, in order to subsidize the extra hours
  • Parents who are eligible will most likely have to secure their extra hours on a term-by-term basis – potentially requiring them to re-enrol their child each term. Nursery places are not guaranteed