Currently, in England, you're entitled to 570 hours of free childcare a year. This is usually taken at up to 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year. You can stretch it out longer by using fewer hours a week, but many councils want your child to attend for at least 2.5 hours a week.
You can either use this allowance in school term time, or you can usually use it over the entire year. To get it, simply ask your local nursery or childcare provider if it has space. You must tell it that you want to take advantage of the free 15 hours when you sign up.
Families with a low income, and on certain benefits, may also get free childcare for two-year-olds.
Some parents can get 30 hours free childcare per week
Parents of children between the ages of three and four can get an additional 15 hours of free childcare a week (totalling 30 hours a week or 1,140 a year), if they work and meet certain conditions.
Councils should have their own cut-off points for application on their websites – typically these are 31 December for the spring term, 31 March for the summer term and 31 August for the autumn term.
To qualify for the extra 15 hours of free childcare, you must earn a minimum of the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national living or minimum wage, and less than £100,000 a year. This applies to both parents in a couple (so each parent must fit the criteria) as well as to single parents.
So, a parent couple each earning £99,999 would still get the extended 30-hour allowance. But, if one parent doesn't work, your child would get just 15 free hours.
To get the the first 15 hours for free, you just contact the provider. However, for the extra 15 hours, you need to apply for the extra hours' free childcare through the Gov.uk website. If you're approved, you'll receive a code to give to your childcare provider. You'll get the extra hours once the next term starts.
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