We’re expanding free government-funded childcare so that thousands more parents won’t have to choose between a career and a family.
Currently, parents who work and earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage, and earn less than £100,000 adjusted net income per year, are entitled to 30 hours free childcare a week for children aged three to four.
We’re now expanding the scheme so that eligible working parents are also entitled to 30 hours of free childcare for children from age 9 months. This will be rolled out in stages, starting in April 2024.
When can I apply for free childcare?
The first stage of the roll out will see eligible working parents of two-year-olds receive 15 hours free childcare per week starting from April 2024.
Applications for this first stage of the roll out opened on 2 January 2024. Parents will be asked to reconfirm that they are still eligible for the support every 3 months.
We recommend those eligible apply between mid-January and the end of February so that parents won’t need to reconfirm eligibility before taking up a place. Parents can apply via Childcare Choices.
From September 2024, 15 hours of free childcare will be extended to all children from the age of nine months.
From September 2025, working parents of children under the age of five will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week.
Application for these offers will be available in the coming months.
You may already be entitled to free childcare. You can find out more on Childcare Choices.
What do you mean when you say free childcare is for ‘working’ parents?
Working parents who individually earn more than £8,670 but less than £100,000 adjusted net income per year are eligible.
For couples, the rules apply to both parents, so both must earn at least £8,670 and neither can earn more than £100,000.
There’s more information available on the exact criteria on the Childcare Choices website, for example if parents work irregular hours or are receiving certain benefits.
How are we supporting nurseries to make sure there are enough places?
To make sure there are enough places available, we’re investing over £400 million in 2024-25 to increase the hourly rates paid to local authorities.
For 2024-25, national average hourly rates paid by the government will be £11.22 for under twos, £8.28 for two-year-olds, and £5.88 for three- and four-year-olds.
Start-up grants will also be available for new or returning childminders who have:
- completed their registration on or after 15th March 2023.
- [for returning childminders] registered at least 12 months after the cancellation of a previous registration.
Childminders will receive grants of:
- £600 for those who choose to register with Ofsted.
- £1,200 for those who choose to register with a childminder agency.
How to sign into your government childcare account
To apply for 30 hours free childcare, you can sign into your account at this link.
You’ll need your Government Gateway user ID to login.