Free Childcare for 3 and 4 Year Olds - information for parents

15 Hours Universal Entitlement to Childcare for ALL 3 and 4 Year Olds

The Government wants every child to get the best start in life and believe that maximising a child’s development at an early age is essential in improving educational standards in later life.

In Halton, ALL 3 and 4 year olds have access to 15 hours per week of Free Early Years Childcare Entitlement through a range of high quality early years providers, which include pre-schools, SEN, nursery schools/classes, day nurseries and eligible childminders.

All providers who offer the free entitlement work towards the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, to ensure early years providers follow a structure of care, learning and development for children from birth to five years old.

All registered providers are inspected by Ofsted and you can view individual reports by visiting the Ofsted website at:

When can my child access the Free Early Years Childcare Entitlement?

Your child can start receiving the 15 hours universal entitlement the term after their 3rd birthday. The start date depends on their date of birth:

If Child’s Birthday is between:You Can Claim from the beginning of term:
​1 Jan to 31 Mar​on or after 1 April
1 Apr to 31 Aug​on or after 1 September
1 Sept to 31 Dec​on or after 1 January

How flexible is the childcare offer?

The funding entitles all 3 and 4 year olds to a maximum of 15 hours of free childcare per week, over no less than 38 weeks per year (570 hours in total).

Although there is no minimum session length (subject to the requirements of registration on the Ofsted Early Years Register), the maximum is 10 hours in any one day. It is not to be used before 6am or after 8pm and can be used at a maximum of two sites in a single day.

How can my child access the Free Childcare Entitlement?

  • Decide which childcare provider you want your child to attend.
  • Contact the provider direct to see if they have a place available that would suit your needs.
  • Discuss with the provider their admission arrangements and agree a start date.
  • Sign any relevant paperwork.

15 Hours Extended Entitlement to Childcare for Eligible 3 and 4 Year Olds

From September 2017 some children from working parents will also be eligible for an additional 15 hours Free Early Years Childcare Entitlement each week - that’s an extra 570 hours a year!

Eligibility Criteria for the extended 15 Hours of funded childcare will be:

  • Parent of a child who is 3 or 4 years of age.
  • All parents (whether a two-parent or lone parent) are working and earning a minimum of the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the National Minimum or Living Wage including income received from Tax or Universal Credit and/or any one parent’s income does not exceed £100,000.
  • One or both parents are on leave (i.e. paternal, maternal or adoption) or claiming statutory sick pay.
  • Parents on zero hours contracts and those who are registered as self-employed.
  • One parent is employed and the other parent has either: substantial caring responsibilities and/or a disability; is a Foster Carer with their own 3 and 4 year old children.

I think my child will be eligible - how and where can we access the Free Extended Childcare Entitlement hours?

Early years childcare providers, which include pre-schools, SEN and nursery schools/classes, day nurseries, after school clubs and eligible childminders can provide the 15 hours of extended childcare.

For more information go to the Government’s website, which brings together all the government childcare offers to help parents find the right childcare support to suit them. The website has been especially designed for parents as a quick and simple way of seeing which schemes could provide support for families.

The website also includes a Childcare Calculator which allows parents to compare the government’s childcare offers and check what works best for their families. Parents can also pre-register for email alerts that will notify them when they can apply for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare.

To ensure you can claim 30 hours free childcare parents must apply the term before they want to start claiming, for example, if you want to claim from the summer term 2019, you need to have applied for your 30 hour code before 31st March 2019. To be eligible for the additional 15 hours from April 2019, both sets of criteria below must be met: .

  • The child must be 3 or 4 years old before 31st March 2019, and
  • Working parents must have applied for the additional hours and been issued with an eligibility code from HMRC before 31st March 2019

Parents who are already claiming 30 hours free childcare are reminded that they must re-confirm eligibility every 3 months, by logging into their Government gateway account. They will receive an email reminder in their Government secure emails account approximately 4 weeks before their expiry date.

Useful Childcare Funding Information:

Working Tax Credit (Age 0 – 15 or 16 years for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities ((SEND))

If you and any partner are working for at least 16 hours a week you can claim back up to 70% of your eligible childcare costs. For information visit: or speak to your employer, to find out if they are registered with a salary sacrifice scheme.

Tax-Free Childcare (Age 0 – 11 or 16 years for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities ((SEND))

You may be entitled to the Childcare Element of Working Tax Credits or your employer may be registered to participate in the salary sacrifice scheme (also known as Childcare Voucher Scheme).  From 28 April 2017, Tax Free Childcare will replace for the Childcare Voucher Scheme for working families. For every £8 you pay in, the government will add an extra £2, up to £2,000 per year for each eligible child. For more information visit:;

Universal Credit for Childcare (Aged 0 - 15 years)

Working families claiming Universal Credit with children under 16 years, can claim back up to 85% of their eligible childcare costs. For more information visit:

Other Funding Support:

Care to Learn – A parent must be aged under 20 years at the start of a publicly-funded course, such as a school, sixth form or college. Care to Learn funding can help with your childcare, registration fees and transport costs. For more information visit:

Discretionary Learner Support – For a parent aged 20 years or over and in further education. Funding can help to pay for things like, accommodation, travel, course materials, equipment and some childcare. For more information visit:

Childcare Grant – For a parent in full-time higher education. Help with childcare costs. For more information visit:

for further information please contact us: