How to Get Free Childcare for Your 3 or 4-Year-Old

Eligible 3 & 4-year-old children can get 570 to 1140 hours of free childcare per year.You may have heard about the Government’s free childcare schemes for children aged 3 and 4, giving them between 15 and 30 hours of free childcare on a weekly basis. These ‘free funded hours’ give eligible children anywhere from 570 to 1140 hours of free childcare per year at a suitably registered, Government-approved childcare setting. Tic Toc Nursery is one such setting in Clayhall, Ilford, and we’re happy to support the schemes to make childcare more affordable for families. But how do the free childcare schemes work? What are the rules? More importantly, is your child eligible? In today’s post we give you answers to these and many other questions relating to free, funded childcare hours for 3 and 4-year-olds in England.

The ‘15 Hours’ Free Childcare Scheme for 3 & 4-Year-Olds

The good news is that pretty much all 3 and 4-year-old children living in England are eligible for 15 hours of funded childcare per week, across 38 weeks of the year. It’s not means-tested, nor is eligibility affected by whether parents/guardians are working — or unemployed.

This scheme allows 3 and 4-year-olds to receive free childcare for 15 hours per week and this is usually taken over the course of 38 weeks per annum. However, it must total no more than 570 hours in any one year. Exactly how the hours are spread out can vary, though, so long as:

  1. the childcare setting agrees to the adjustment in how the hours are spread out and;
  2. it still totals no more than 570 hours over the course of the year after adjustment.

Children are eligible once they reach the age of 3 and they can start at approved childcare settings in the term following that birthday. Terms at childcare settings usually start early in January, April or September. The children remain eligible for this free childcare scheme until they start in Reception year at school or reach the age of 5, the legal age at which full-time education becomes compulsory in the UK.

Applying for the ‘15 Hours’ Free Childcare Scheme

To apply for 15 hours of free childcare per week for your 3 or 4-year-old at Tic Toc Nursery in Ilford, please contact the nursery and we’ll be happy to help. If you’re elsewhere in England, you can apply by contacting your proposed childcare provider or through your local council.

Please note that funding for the free childcare hours is paid direct to the registered childcare setting, not you/your child. Claims cannot be backdated.

The ‘30 Hours’ Free Childcare Scheme for 3 & 4-Year-Olds

Eligible 3 and 4-year-olds can top up the standard 15 hours with an additional 15 hours per week, over 38 weeks of the year.Eligible 3 and 4-year-olds can top up the standard 15 hour scheme with an additional 15 hours per week, potentially giving them 30 hours per week of free childcare over 38 weeks of the year. As before, it’s sometimes possible to use the hours so they’re spread out differently, so long as they total no more than 1140 hours per annum. Again, the childcare setting would also need to agree the alternative pattern.

Rules around the top-up to 30 hours per week are more stringent than the standard ‘15 hours’ scheme, however. That means that not every 3 or 4-year-old will be eligible, although many families will still fit the criteria. Let’s take a look at the requirements:

  • Your child must usually be living with you in order for them to be eligible for the ‘30 hours’ funding scheme.
  • You (and your partner, if applicable)1 must have a National Insurance number and either be UK nationals, have settled/pre-settled status (or have applied for it), or hold a UK residence card that allows access to UK public funding. You must also usually be working2 (or re-starting work in the next 31 days), earning at least the total amount you’d earn in a quarter if you worked for 16 hours per week at the National Living Wage (or National Minimum Wage if under 25), but no more than £100k total in the relevant tax year. While the bottom threshold cannot include interest on savings, dividends, property investment income nor pension payments, the top £100k threshold must include any bonuses.

Rules around the top-up to 30 hours per week are more stringent than the standard ‘15 hours’ scheme.Eligibility for the ‘30 hours’ funding is also not usually affected if you are claiming Tax-Free Childcare, Universal Credit, Tax Credits or childcare vouchers. You cannot claim, however, if someone else is already claiming the funding or Tax-Free Childcare for the child in question.

Applying for the ‘30 Hours’ Free Childcare Scheme

If you believe you meet all the criteria, you can apply for the 30 hours of free childcare for your child here. N.B. If you are a foster parent, you will need to apply instead via your local authority or through your social worker.

As with the ‘15 hours’ scheme, the funding for the ‘30 hours’ of free childcare per week is paid direct to the registered childcare setting, not to you/your child. A code will be provided for you to give the setting, so they can access the funding allocated for your own particular child. As before, claims cannot be backdated.

Free Childcare Schemes are Accepted at Tic Toc Nursery & Pre-School in Clayhall, Ilford.

Tic Toc Nursery and pre-school offers high quality childcare services in Clayhall, Ilford, Essex (IG5).Children absolutely flourish at Tic Toc and we support the Government schemes for free childcare, subject to eligibility and capacity. We are a family-run nursery and pre-school, offering high quality childcare services in Clayhall, Ilford, Essex (IG5). Our setting will also be a convenient for your child if you are looking for nurseries, pre-schools or childcare services near Barkingside, Gants Hill, Redbridge, South Woodford, Fulwell Cross, Fairlop, Grange Hill, Hainault or Newbury Park.

Please get in touch if you would like to arrange a visit, find answers to any questions or simply to enrol your baby, toddler or under-five child for a place at the nursery:

1. Your partner’s employment and income does not affect eligibility for 30 hours funding if they live elsewhere for more than 6 months of the year or if they are serving a prison sentence.
2. If you are not working but your partner is, your child may still be eligible if you are currently claiming Carer’s Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance or contribution-based Employment & Support Allowance. You, and your partner if applicable, may still apply if on sick leave, annual leave or parental leave although rules apply.