How to apply for free childcare

Childcare can often take up a large part of the family budget.  The government runs a number of schemes that can help with the cost of childcare. 

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Tax free childcare

You are eligible for tax free childcare if you are a working family or self-employed in the UK with children aged 0-11 (or 0-16 if disabled).  You must be earning under £100k but at least £131 per week (equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage) each.  You must not be receiving Tax Credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers. You can check if you are eligible on the childcare choices website.

15 hours free childcare for two-year-olds

The government is offering free childcare/early education to some two-year-old children. This free entitlement applies to about 40% of two-year-olds.  It is for families in England, receiving certain forms of support with two-year-old children.  You can check if you are eligible on the childcare choices website. You can apply online but you must register an account to submit an application.

15 hours free childcare for all three and four-year-olds

The government provides funding for all three and four-year-old children to attend an Ofsted registered early years provider (for example, pre-schools, nurseries and childminders).  This is known as the Free Entitlement (formally the Nursery Education Grant).  It is for all families in England with three and four-year-old children.  You can check if you are eligible on the childcare choices website.

30 hours free childcare for three and four-year-olds

The government provides 30 hours of free childcare or early education for 38 weeks.  This is for working families in England with three and four-year-old children. 
A guide setting out the eligibility requirements is now available.

Universal Credit for childcare

Childcare is available for working families claiming Universal Credit, in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales with children under 17. You can check if you are eligible on the childcare choices website.

Childcare providers

The national criteria for free childcare for two year olds:

  • the provider must be registered by Ofsted to accept two year olds.
  • the childcare provider can be a childminder, day nursery or pre-school/playgroup

We recommend that the provider has an Ofsted rating of ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ (‘satisfactory’ providers may be used if we feel they are improving).  For the latest position in South Gloucestershire download the list of providers who accept two year old funding. For a current list of early year providers open during the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency please see here.

Further information

Children and young people information service can provide further information on the above contact 01454 868008 or email: cis@southglos.gov.uk

You can check what help you could get with childcare costs by using the childcare vouchers - better off calculator provided by Gov.uk.

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