Thousands of families are now entitled to 30 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4-year olds, funded by the government, in a bid to get parents back into work. This scheme is worth approximately £5000 per child, and was rolled out across the country on 1st September 2017.
However, some of the information available to parents makes the scheme seem confusing, so we’ve tried to simplify it using key points:
- The 30 hours free childcare applies to 3 and 4-year olds only, starting from the term after their third birthday until when they start school.
- Working parents can claim 30 hours of free childcare by filling in a form online if they both earn at least £146 a week. This is equivalent to 16 hours of paid work per week receiving the National Minimum/Living Wage.
- Parents can only claim these hours if their combined income does not exceed £100,000.
- The scheme can be used alongside the newly launched ‘Tax-free childcare’ – which is set to replace employer childcare voucher schemes – but only for 3 and 4-year olds.
- It can also be used alongside Tax Credits, Universal Credit and employer voucher schemes.
- If HMRC reviews your claim for free childcare and deems your application to be successful, they will send you an 11-digit eligibility code for your child. You then give this code to your chosen childcare provider, along with your National Insurance number and your child’s date of birth, for your free hours to be claimed.
Now…. here’s a really important bit, which usually catches people out as it can be seen as misleading!
- Make sure you check with your chosen childcare provider beforehand how they allow the free hours to be taken – some will offer them pro-rata’d (at around 24 hours per week, for example) if they provide childcare facilities all year round, like private nurseries, and others will offer the full 30 hours per week, as this is based on term time only care. This is a point worth considering to fit in around your working hours and being able to budget for any additional hours needed.
The government’s aim for this scheme is to get more parents finding or returning to work as their child(ren) approach compulsory school age.
If, however, you don’t qualify for the scheme don’t panic! You will still get the 15 free hours of childcare which all 3 and 4-year olds are entitled to.
You can find out more about the scheme, if you’re eligible to claim, and apply by visiting https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.