3 and 4 year old funded childcare - Working families

Some children are eligible for an additional 15 hours of early education funding meaning that they can access up to 30 hours per week in total. After making an online application on the national .gov website eligible parent(s) will receive a code confirming eligibility to take to their preferred provider.

You can apply for the additional hours funding via the Childcare Choices website. You can also apply for Tax Free Childcare via the same website.

Apply online for additional funding

When to apply

When you are applying additional extended entitlement you need to make your application in time in order to get your eligibility code before the following dates. If you apply after these dates you will have to wait until the following term to take up the additional funded hours;

  • 31 August - funding starting in the Autumn term (from September)
  • 31 December - funding starting in the Spring term (from January)
  • 31 March - funding starting in the Summer term (from April)

Please be aware it can take up to 15 days from date of application for HMRC to issue a code. If you already have a 30 hour code please remember to re-confirm your details when prompted by HMRC in order to continue to receive funding.

If you are issued a temporary code by HMRC these are only valid for 1 term so you must ensure you have a new code from HMRC for the following term.

If you are eligible for the 30 hours per week funding you will be given a code which you need to take to your chosen childcare provider or School. You will be asked by HMRC to re-check your eligibility every 3 months so please follow any prompts you receive and instructions so that the funding can continue.

If you have any difficulty applying for the 30 hours extended entitlement please call the HMRC helpline on 0300 123 4097.

Eligibility

Eligibility for the additional extended entitlement will include households where:

  • all parents (whether two-parent family or lone parent) are working and earning a minimum of the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the National Minimum or Living Wage (includes income received from tax credits or Universal Credit) and one parent’s income does not exceed £100,000
  • one or both parents are on paid leave (parental, maternal etc.)
  • one or both parents are on statutory sick pay
  • parents on zero hours contracts and those who are registered as self-employed
  • one parent is employed and the other parent has either:
    • substantial caring responsibilities and or a disability
    • is a foster carer with their own 3 and 4 year old children

Your child’s funded hours are free of charge. The funding does not cover the cost of meals, consumables or additional services.

  • Childcare providers can charge for meals and snacks and so, if you choose to take these up, you would be expected to pay for them. Childcare providers should provide you with alternatives such as supplying your child’s meals and snacks yourself.
  • Childcare providers can charge for consumables (such as sun cream, nappies, trips, specialist tuition or additional services). Childcare providers should provide you with an alternative such as supplying your own items, your child not accessing the specialist tuition/trips or them waiving/reducing fees.
  • Childcare providers can charge for extra hours so, if you choose to take these up, you would be expected to pay for them. If you choose not to access extra hours this should not stop you from accessing your child’s funded place.

You should discuss any charges with the childcare provider you wish to use before making a booking. This will allow you to understand any charges and ask the childcare provider what alternative options they can offer. If you choose to pay for any meals, consumables or additional services, these should be clearly listed on your invoice so you know what you are paying for. 

If you have any questions please discuss them directly with your chosen childcare provider who will be able to explain their process to you.

You need to set a pattern of attendance for your funded hours for the term during headcount week which is usually the 3rd week of the funding term. Once this pattern is set you cannot increase your hours until the next term.

If you wish to move some or all of your funded hours to another childcare provider during the term, that is fine, as long as you give the relevant amount of notice to the original nursery and do not increase the total number of funded hours you are taking up.

For example: You cannot start the term with a pattern of 15hrs and then start another nursery mid-term to take up additional hours as this would be classed as increasing, but you can take up 15 hours at one provider and then move 5 of these hours to another provider during the term i.e. you continue to have 15 funded hours but move some of them to another provider.

If you no longer meet the criteria for the extended funded hours following a re-check you will be permitted a ‘grace period’ whereby your child will still have access to 30 hours entitlement for a set number of weeks after your check.

You will be told how long the grace period is when you have been re-checked. If the grace period has lapsed and you still no longer meet the criteria you will revert back to the standard 15 hours entitlement.

Some school nurseries are able to offer the additional extended entitlement (30hrs). The process for applying for a school nursery place has changed. Parents will now need to contact their chosen school directly to apply for a school nursery place. There should be information on each school website on how and when to apply as well as their admissions criteria and admissions policy. The school will be able to tell you what they can offer.

If you are not sure which schools are local to you please visit our schoolfinder page where you can search for schools closest to your postcode area including your catchment school.

If you are struggling to find a school nursery who can offer the care you require, the Family Information Service can support you to find an alternative private provider.

Search for 30 hours providers

If you are eligible you can find out about the local authority register of providers at Solihull Family Information Service (FIS).

Alternatively contact the Family Information Service on 0800 389 8667 or email familyinfo@solihull.gov.uk.

The 30 hours extended entitlement can be taken over 38 to 52 weeks in the year. Providers will each offer something slightly different.

The extended entitlement can be taken between 6am and 8pm for up to 10 hours a day. In one day the extended hours are limited to 2 sites and 3 providers. It will not cover the cost of consumables (drinks, meals, nappies, sun cream etc). Solihull FIS will support you to find a setting to meet your needs.

Visiting the following websites may also be useful to find provision outside of Solihull:

For parents on parental leave who are applying for the child who is the reason for the leave, or for parents starting a new job, the following applies:

  • If you are planning to start work or return to work from parental leave before 30 September 2024, you can apply for the working parent entitlement now, to take up a place from the start of the September 2024 term. You need to apply online via HMRC and you will then receive a letter in the post within 1 to 2 weeks so you can access your childcare entitlement. 
  • If you are planning to start or return to work from parental leave between 1 October 2024 and 31 January 2025, then you will be able to apply from 1 September 2024 to take up a place from the start of the January term 2025. 

From 1 October, the below dates will apply:

Date of starting or returning to work When you can apply from When you can access your entitlement from
1 May to 30 September 1 April to 31 August 1 September
1 October to 31 January 1 September to 31 December 1 January
1 February to 30 April 1 January to 31 March 1 April

If you are applying for childcare for an older child, who is not the reason for your parental leave, you can apply regardless of your return-to-work date.

A parent who has leave to remain with a 'No Recourse to Public Funds' (NRPF) condition cannot apply for the funded childcare hours but can be included in an application that is made by a partner who does meet the residence requirement. 

Government funded childcare is not a 'public fund' for immigration purposes, so a partner with no recourse to public funds can be included in the application without this causing them to breach their immigration conditions. 

When a parent who meets the residence requirement has a partner, both will need to satisfy the requirements relating to employment and income. For example, if one parent is a British citizen and their partner has leave to remain with NRPF, the British parent can make the application and both will need to meet the employment/income requirements.

When a single parent has leave to remain with NRPF, or both parents in a household have leave to remain with NRPF, the family will not be able to access the funded hours for working parents or tax-free childcare, even if they meet the employment and income requirements. 

If you are not sure if you meet the requirements, you can call the Childcare Choices helpline on 0300 123 4097.

For further information please see our additional Frequently Asked Questions.