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.
- Tax free childcare
- 15 hours free childcare for two-year-olds
- 15 hours free childcare for three and four-year-olds
- 30 hours free childcare for three and four-year-olds
- Universal credit for childcare
- Childcare providers
- Further information
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can check what help you could get with childcare costs by using the childcare vouchers - better off calculator provided by Gov.uk.