You may be able to get 30 hours free childcare if:
- you live in England
- your child is 3 to 4 years old
- must be with an approved childcare provider
- stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later)
You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.
You can apply online for a childcare account to get a code for 30 hours to give to your provider.
How you can use 30 hours free childcare
You can get 30 hours of free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time).
You may be able to get free childcare for 52 weeks if you use fewer than 30 hours per week. Check with your childcare provider to find out if this is something they offer.
Your eligibility depends on:
- if you are working
- your income (and your partner’s income, if you have one)
- your child’s age and circumstances
- your immigration status
You can get 30 hours free childcare at the same time as claiming Universal Credit, tax credits, childcare vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare.
If you are working
You can usually get 30 hours free childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:
- in work
- on sick leave or annual leave
- on shared parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave
If you’re on adoption leave for a child aged 3 to 4 years old, you must return to work within 31 days of the date you first apply for 30 hours free childcare for that child.
If you are not currently working
You may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.
You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days.
You’ll need to expect to earn a certain amount over the next 3 months. This is at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average.
For example, over the next 3 months you expect to earn at least £1,976 - the National Living Wage for people over 23.
If you have a partner, they’ll need to expect to earn at least this much too.
If you’re self-employed and do not expect to make enough profit in the next 3 months, you can use an average of how much you expect to make over the current tax year.
This earnings limit does not apply if you’re self-employed and started your business less than 12 months ago.
If you or your partner have an expected ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000 in the current tax year you will not be eligible. This includes any bonuses you expect to get.
Your adjusted net income is your total taxable income before any personal allowances and minus things like Gift Aid.
Certain types of income will not count towards the minimum amount you must earn to be eligible.
- income from investing in property
- pension payments
You will not be eligible if your child does not usually live with you.
If you foster your child, you cannot use the online application to get 30 hours free childcare. Speak to your social worker and your local authority if you want to apply.
Your immigration status
To be eligible for 30 hours free childcare, you (or your partner if you have one) must have a National Insurance number and at least one of the following:
- British or Irish citizenship
- settled or pre-settled status, or you have applied and you’re waiting for a decision
- permission to access public funds - your UK residence card will tell you if you cannot do this
When to apply
You can apply from when your child is 2 years and 36 weeks old.
|When your child turns 3
||When they can get 30 hours from
||Recommended time to apply
|1 September to 31 December
||Term starting on or after 1 January
||15 October to 30 November
|1 January to 31 March
||Term starting on or after 1 April
||15 January to 28 February
|1 April to 31 August
||Term starting on or after 1 September
||15 June to 31 July
You can apply outside of these recommended dates but you might not receive your code in time. You must have a valid code by the end of the month before a new term starts.
Check with your childcare provider to find out the exact date your 30 hours free childcare starts.
You have to reconfirm your eligibility every 3 months. If you apply more than 3 months before the term starts, you’ll have to reconfirm your eligibility in your account in order to keep your code valid.
Apply online for 30 hours free childcare.
If you are applying for 30 hours and someone else already claims Tax-Free Childcare for that child, your application will be unsuccessful.
If you have a partner
You must include your partner in your application if you are:
- married or in a civil partnership and live together
- not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are
Their employment and income will not affect your eligibility if they:
- are or will be absent from your household for more than 6 months
- are a prisoner
You and your partner cannot both have accounts for the same child.
If you are separated
You and your ex-partner need to decide who should apply if you are jointly responsible for your child.
If you cannot decide, both of you must apply separately and HMRC will decide who gets a childcare account.
After you’ve applied
Once your application has been approved, you’ll get a code for 30 hours free childcare to give to your childcare provider.