30 hours free childcare / Tax Free Childcare

Working parents could be entitled to 30 hours free childcare, and help with childcare costs through Tax Free Childcare.


From September 2017, working parents of 3 & 4 year olds that meet the criteria will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year. This is an increase of 15 additional free childcare hours on top of the current 15 hours of free childcare / early education.

For more on this, please read the following questions and answers.

Questions about 30 hours free childcare

What is the eligibility criteria?

Working parents includes: employed, self-employed and workers on a zero hour’s contract.

To take up the 30 hours of free childcare families need to meet all the following criteria:

  • Each parent earns less than £100,000 per year
  • Both parents are working and in a lone parent family the sole parent must work
  • Each parent works a minimum of 16 hours a week or earns on average a weekly minimum amount that is equivalent to 16 hours a week at either the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage, for example, £120 a week based on National Living Wage

There are exceptions to both parents having to work.  Families where one parent does not work (or neither parent works) will not usually be entitled to the 15 hours extended entitlement; however, they will be eligible where:

  • both parents are employed but one (or both parents) is temporarily away from the workplace on: parental, maternity or paternity leave; adoption leave; or on statutory sick pay
  • one parent is employed and one parent:
    • has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring
    • is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits

What is the eligibility criteria for foster carers?

You will be eligible for your children in foster care if it is consistent with the child’s care plan and you and your partner (if any) are working outside your fostering role. You should start by discussing this with your social worker.

How do I apply?

  • To see if you are eligible and to apply please visit the Childcare Choices website.
  • If a parent needs assistance to apply or are experiencing problems with the online application process Telephone: 0300 123 4097 for the customer interaction centre.
  • You will need to reconfirm your details every 3 months to prove you still meet the eligibility criteria.

How do foster carers apply?

You will need to apply through the local authority who is responsible for the child in foster care. You, and your partner (if any), will need your:
  • National insurance number(s)
  • Any evidence requested by your local authority

Where is my eligibility code?

  • You can access your eligibility code on your online account. 
  • If you have forgotten how to access your account please see the 'Parents Guide to access code' in the downloads and resources section of this page.

My child is eligible for a 30 hour place, what do I do next?

  • You will be given an 11 digit code starting with 5000...
  • You need to find out which schools / childcare providers offer 30 hour places and if they have vacancies
  • When you have found a school nursery / childcare provider that you want your child to attend you need to follow their admission arrangements to secure your place (this will include a Parent Declaration Form)
  • The school / childcare provider will need to validate your 11 digit code
  • Once the code has been validated your child's place can be confirmed and a start date can be arranged
  • Eligibility codes last 3 months only and therefore you will need to reconfirm your details every 3 months

What is a Parent Declaration Form?

  • This is a form the parent needs to complete to give consent and provide information to the school/childcare provider for them to undertake a validation check on your 30 hours eligibility code.  
  • If the child attends more than one school/childcare provider for their 30 free hours, a form must be completed for each provider.    

What happens if my circumstances have changed and I am no longer eligible?

  • If a child has started their place and the parent’s circumstances change and they fall out of eligibility, a grace period will apply so the child can continue with their free place for a period of time.  
After the grace period end date the child will no longer be able to receive the 15 hours extended entitlement however they will continue to receive the 15 hours universal entitlement.

Date parent receives ‘not eligible’

decision on reconfirmation

Grace period end date

1st January to 10th February

31st March

11th February to 31st March

31st August

1st April to 26th May

31st August

27th May to 31st August

31st December

1st September to 21st October

31st December

22nd October to 31st December

31st March

  • If a parent’s circumstances change again at a later date or whilst they are in the grace period, they may reapply to HMRC and become eligible again.  
  • The eligibility code for a parent / child combination will not change over time even if its validity lapses and a new application is submitted. 

When can my child take up their 30 hour free place?

The child can take up a place at the beginning of a term when both of the following conditions are satisfied:
  • The child can take up their 30 hour free place the term after their third birthday
  • The term after the 'Validity Start Date' (the ‘Validity Start Date’ is the date HMRC confirm a parent’s eligibility)

    Validity Start Date and child is three years old on or before the following date

    Date from when a child can take up their 15 hour extended entitlement place

    31st August

    1st September

    31st December

    1st January

    31st March

    1st April

  • Your child must take their place before the Headcount dates so the provider can be paid for your child. The Headcount dates for 2019 are: 
    - 17th January (Spring Term)
    - 16th May (Summer Term)
    - 3rd October (Autumn Term)

Where can my child take up their free childcare place?

  • Please be aware not all providers deliver the 30 hours free childcare.
  • A 30 hours free place can be taken at a school with a nursery or with a childcare provider who is registered on Doncaster Councils Directory of Funded Providers to deliver 3 and 4 year old free entitlement places.
    These include:
    - independent schools
    - day nurseries
    - childminders
    - sessional providers (for example, a playgroup or pre-school).
  • To find contact details and information for schools and childcare providers who offer 30 hours places, visit our Families Information Services page which has a search facility.

Can I use more than one provider for the 30 hours?

  • Yes, you can take your 30 hours with more than one provider.  There is no limit on the number of providers you can use, however you will be limited to no more than two sites in a single day. 

Do you have any other information for parents who are self-employed or on a zero hour's contract?

Although the criteria are based on earning the equivalent of 16 hours a week, there is no requirement to work any particular number of hours or to earn any particular amount each week.  Parents need only to expect to earn the stated amount on average over a 3 month period (which will be £131.36 a week based on National Living Wage).  HMRC will request information through the application process which may include previous earnings.

New self-employed parents: it is recognised that many small businesses struggle to generate a regular income when they first start up.  Therefore to support newly self-employed parents they do not have to meet the minimum income rule in their first year of trading.  This ‘start up’ period should remove the pressure on parents to predict future income in the earliest months of their business. 

My school nursery offers 30 hours places, how do I apply?

  • 15 hour extended entitlement places:  The parent should contact the school directly and they will tell you what their admission arrangements are for the extended entitlement places.    All providers of free entitlement places are required to publish clear and transparent admissions arrangements.  This will include how to apply and the process for allocating places.

  • 15 hours universal entitlement nursery places:  The allocation of nursery places will still be undertaken by the Council for the majority of schools.  The parent will submit an application form to the Council, who will then write to the parent informing them which school nursery their child will have a place at for their 15 hours universal entitlement.  The admission arrangements for which sessions the child will attend will then be agreed directly with the school.

Will I have to pay anything for my child's 30 hour place?

  • No, the actual 30 hours place will be delivered free to the parent.
  • It is not intended to cover the cost of meals, optional services or additional hours (hours that are taken over and above the free entitlement hours).  Therefore schools / childcare providers will charge for additional hours, meals, trips out and consumables such as nappies, wipes, sun cream etc. 
  • Before a child starts their free hours, a parent should expect the provider to be completely clear about charges for additional hours and optional services.
  • Parents should not be required to pay a registration fee as a condition of taking up their child’s free place.
  • A childcare provider can request a deposit where a place is secured in advance.  The deposit will then be refunded in full to the parent within a reasonable timescale when the child takes up the place.

If you would like more in depth information on the frequently asked questions for the 30 hours free childcare, please see the FAQ Parents document in the downloads and resources section of this page.

Tax Free Childcare

Tax Free Childcare is a new Government scheme to help working families with their childcare costs. Parents will be able to open online childcare accounts to pay their school/childcare provider directly. For every £8 that parents, family or friends pay in, the Government will make a top up payment of an additional £2 up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 for each disabled child. This will be open to all working parents in the UK with children under 12 years old or under 17 years old if they have a disability. Parents can’t use Tax Free Childcare at the same time as childcare vouchers.

To support parents to decide which childcare offer will best suit their family, the governments new Childcare Choices website will provide all the information a parent needs to understand what is available to them.

If you have any questions, please get in touch on the details below.

Contact the Families Information Service

  • Freephone: 0800 138 4568, operates Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, outside of these hours there is an answer phone service  
  • Email: fis@doncaster.gov.uk - all queries will be responded to within three working days. 
Last updated: 06 June 2019 15:13:35