Free Childcare Eligibility 2024- - Early Finder
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Free Childcare Eligibility 2024-

Free Childcare Eligibility 2024 – The Government provides free childcare hours for eligible parents returning to work after taking parental leave. Current entitlement ranges from 15-30 hours weekly, depending on the child’s age. The Spring Budget 2023 outlined an expansion to this program beginning April 2024, increasing access for additional families. As of now, thousands qualify for existing free childcare support. This guide covers everything one needs to know about the current system as well as upcoming changes – who can apply, available hours by age bracket and how to complete the application process. Having this information empowers families to utilize these services to ease their transition back into the workforce.

About Free Childcare Eligibility

Free Childcare refers to the government-funded entitlements available to working families in England to cover formal childcare costs for children from 9 months up until their start of school. Its purpose is to expand affordability and access while supporting early child development and allowing parents to pursue employment opportunities. Currently, England boasts globally high standards with 96% of all early years providers rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted. However, despite quality options, childcare fees pose major financial strain for families.

To address this, the UK government has pledged record investment, set to double annual spending from £4 billion to £8 billion within coming years. Through this funding, free entitlement will be extended from 15 to 30 hours weekly by September 2025, applicable for 38 weeks annually for infants from 9 months up to preschool ages. Removing these cost barriers during formative developmental years will positively impact families and support the early years sector overall.

Eligibility Criteria for Free Childcare 2024

Currently, all three- and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours per week of free childcare or early education, rising to 30 hours for working families, and 15 hours for disadvantaged two-year-olds, over 38 weeks of the year. The extended 30 hours free childcare entitlement is available to families meeting the following criteria:

  1. Both parents are employed (or the sole parent is working in a single parent household)
  2. Each parent earns the weekly equivalent of at least 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage on average
  3. Combined parental income does not exceed £100,000 annually
  4. Both parents are employed but one or both is temporarily away from employment on:
  • Parental leave
  • Maternity leave
  • Paternity leave
  • Adoption leave
  • Statutory sick pay
  1. One parent is employed and the other has substantial caring duties based on specific disability/incapacity benefits received or has main responsibility for caring for a child with significant needs.

Eligibility under any of the above five categories will enable families to claim the 30 funded hours.

Requirements for Free Childcare Eligibility 2024

You must live in England to apply for free childcare. The amount of free childcare you can get depends on:

  • your child’s age and circumstances
  • whether you’re working (employed, self-employed, or a director)
  • your income (and your partner’s income, if you have one)
  • your immigration status

What you need to apply

You’ll need your details (and your partner’s, if you have one), including your:

  • National Insurance number
  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed

You’ll also need:

  • the UK birth certificate reference number (if you have one) of any children you’re applying for
  • the date you started or are due to start work (this can be approximate if more than 3 months ago)

If you’re a director

You’ll need to show you meet the minimum income requirements to be eligible. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will try to check this using your PAYE records.

If you do not submit regular PAYE information, you may have to provide evidence to show you are working and expect to meet the minimum income requirements for the next 3 months. This could be:

  • wage slips
  • bank statements
  • a statement from your accountant
  • copies of invoices

If you’re not paid regularly (for example, once a year) you may need to send other evidence to show you’ll meet the minimum income requirements, such as:

  • annual wage slips
  • year end payroll
  • a letter from your tax agent or adviser confirming your salary has been paid and taxed

You’ll need to do this the first time you apply, and every time you reconfirm your eligibility.

If you have a partner

You must include your partner in your application if you are:

  • married or in a civil partnership and live together
  • not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are

Their employment and income will not affect your eligibility if they:

  • are or will be absent from your household for more than 6 months
  • are a prisoner

You and your partner cannot both have accounts for the same child.

If you are separated

You and your ex-partner need to decide who should apply if you are jointly responsible for your child.

If you cannot decide, both of you must apply separately and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will decide who gets a childcare account.

 Application portal for Free Childcare Eligibility 2024

If you live in England, you can apply for a code to get free childcare and set up an account here on the Free Childcare portal.

There are different schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To apply, parents will need to provide their National Insurance number or their Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you are self-employed.

They will also need the UK birth certificate reference number of any children you’re applying for and the date you started or are due to start work.

Application Process for Free Childcare Eligibility 2024

For children aged 3-4 years, 15 hours of free childcare is automatically available. Parents/guardians simply provide the childcare provider a copy of the child’s birth certificate and sign a declaration form – no formal application is necessary. The provider will handle enrollments and claim the funding allocation directly.

Some 2-year-old children also qualify for 15 free hours, subject to certain eligibility criteria. Interested parents/guardians must submit an application via the Childcare Choices portal to confirm eligibility and enroll the child.

For those eligible for the 30 hours extended entitlement based on working status and income thresholds, a formal application process is required. Parents of 3-4-year-olds meeting the eligibility criteria must complete the application form through the online portal to receive a childcare account activation code. Approval letters will specify the code alongside the child’s date of birth and parent’s National Insurance number. Parents then share these details with chosen providers to activate funded placements.

Important to note – regardless of whether families claim 15 or 30 free hours, they must confirm their details every 3 months through reconfirmation online. Failure to undertake this step means the childcare account will expire, ending free entitlement until the necessary verification check occurs. Maintaining updated details guarantees uninterrupted discounted early years care.

How it works

Outlined in the spring budget in March 2023 by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the phased extension plan includes:

  • April 2024: eligible two-year-olds will be entitled to 15 hours of childcare per week during term time. This month, the government will also be increasing the amount it pays providers to deliver childcare: to an average of £11.22 per hour for under-twos, £8.28 for two-year-olds, and £5.88 for three and four-year-olds.
  • September 2024: eligible children from nine months will get 15 hours of childcare per week during term time
  • September 2025: eligible preschool children between nine months and school age will get 30 hours of childcare per week during term time

Working parents of three and four-year-olds in England are currently eligible for 30 hours of free childcare per week during term time. The hours are available from the start of the term after the child reaches the relevant age.

All expansions should have fully rolled out by September 2025.

How you can use your Free Childcare 2024

For those residing in England, you can use this service to request a code to access your free childcare.

Setting up a childcare account is essential for this process, so prepare your details, including:

  • Your National Insurance number, and if self-employed, your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
  • The UK birth certificate reference number of each child
  • Your work commencement date

It’s crucial to secure a valid code by the month’s end before a new term begins, but the term dates and deadlines are outlined clearly on the application page before you start, so you know whether you’re within the right time frame. The application typically takes about 20 minutes, and confirmation may take up to 7 days.

Upon approval, you’ll receive a code for free childcare to provide to your childcare provider.

Note: Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland operate distinct schemes – and if someone else already claims Tax-Free Childcare for the child you’re seeking free childcare for, your application won’t succeed.

The UK is the third most expensive country for childcare among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) behind Switzerland and New Zealand, so this is a welcome move by the government for parents nationwide.

Applications for the first phase have opened, but parents are advised to register between mid-January and the end of February.

Tips for successful application for the Free Childcare Eligibility 2024

  1. Childcare vouchers were a DfE scheme closed to new applicants in 2018. The changes to childcare funding impact it. A scheme to allow parents to pay for childcare from their pre-tax income. This means parents sacrifice a portion of their salary for their employer to pay in the form of childcare vouchers. The parent won’t pay any tax or national insurance on the value of these vouchers.
  2. Universal credit is a government benefit scheme that supports parents on low incomes or who may be out of work. Universal credit funding for childcare can support several children up to 16. Parents will be entitled to an extra child amount for any child born before 6th April 2017. However, unless there are special circumstances, a third or following child born after 6th April 2017 will not meet additional payment requirements.


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