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30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

Apply for 30 hours free childcare on GOV.UK

Sign up, create an account and apply for funding through the GOV.UK website.


Find guidance about accessing your childcare service account

Who can apply?

All parents get up to 15 hours free childcare per week for 3 and 4 year olds.

You could get up to 30 hours free childcare in total if you and your partner (if you have one) work full or part-time hours.

You could still be eligible, even if you're on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or if you're unable to work. 

Check the full eligibility criteria to find out if you can claim.

What you will get

You can get up to 30 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year. Some childcare providers may allow you to use your free hours over more weeks by using fewer hours each week. Speak to your chosen childcare provider to find out if you can spread the funding over more weeks.

Some providers may not offer 30 hours free childcare, or they may only be able to offer a few extra hours. This could be due to available places or their opening times.

You can use your free hours with more than one childcare provider. 

The funding doesn't cover the cost of additional services or items and your childcare provider may charge extra for these. These could be:

  • lunch
  • nappies
  • trips
  • music classes

Even so, you must not be asked to pay a fee as a condition of taking up a 30 hours place, and must be offered alternative options such as choosing to provide your own child's lunch, for example. 

When will the free childcare start?

You can get up to 30 hours free childcare the term after your child's third birthday if you're eligible and apply before the deadline. This means it would start either in January, April or September. 

You can continue to claim the funding for free childcare until your child starts school. If you choose to  defer your child's school place, you can continue to claim until your child reaches compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). 

What types of childcare can I use with the funding?

You can only use the free childcare funding with registered or approved childcare providers who offer early education funding. This includes:

  • childminders
  • pre-schools, playgroups and nurseries
  • out-of-school clubs
  • home care workers working for a registered home care agency

Search for childcare

Search our Family Information Directory to find childcare providers. You can filter your search by those offering free early education and childcare.

You can't use the funding with a childcare provider if they're your child's relative. Relative means the child's:

  • grandparent
  • aunt or uncle
  • brother or sister

When to apply

Find the date you can apply from in this table:

Eligibility dates for 3 and 4 year old free childcare funding
Must be 3 years old byDate child is eligible for funding fromLatest date to take your code to your childcare provider 
31 December 1 January (spring term) 31 December
31 March 1 April (summer term) 31 March
31 August 1 September (autumn term) 31 August

You can apply for free childcare funding for 3 and 4 year olds 16 weeks before your child's third birthday. We recommend you apply no more than 3 months before you're eligible to claim.

You must apply in good time to take your eligibility code to your childcare provider before the deadline. Many parents applying for 30 hours free childcare will get a reply straightaway to say if they're eligible. Some parents will need to provide more information for their application.  

Reconfirm your eligibility

You must reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months if you're claiming 30 hours' free childcare. You must do this 3 months from the date you applied, even if you haven't started claiming. 

Can you claim other funding at the same time?

If you're eligible, you can claim through other funding schemes at the same time, including:

Find out which funding schemes work best for your family with the  online childcare calculator

Make a complaint about your childcare provider or funding

Find out what to do if you want to complain about your childcare provider, funding or free childcare.

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