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How Does Free Childcare Work

How Does Free Childcare Work

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In this year’s budget Chancellor George Osborne announced that working families with three- and four-year-old children will receive 30 hours of free childcare. This doubles the 15 hours parents were previously entitled to and is due to come into effect from September 2017.

Current legislation

At the moment all parents in England are entitled to 570 hours of childcare per year for their three- and four-year old children. This is usually taken as 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year, during school term times.

Choice of provider

Often youngsters will attend morning or afternoon sessions at a council-run pre-school nursery class, usually part of a school. However, working parents often find it more convenient to find a place in a private nursery where the hours can be more flexible. Most councils have a list of private nurseries that work in partnership with the local authority to provide free childcare. This means that you can place your child in nursery for, for example, 38 hours per week but only pay for 23 of those. You can also claim your hours through a registered childminder, playgroup or Sure Start Children’s Centre.

Working parents

The increase in free childcare to 30 hours per week will only apply where both parents are working. By extending the number of hours parents can claim, the government expects to help around 600,000 families, saving each of them up to £5,000 in childcare costs per year.

Free childcare for two-year-olds

The government also runs a scheme where two-year-old from the poorest backgrounds can receive free childcare. To qualify the parents must get income support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit with an annual income under £16,190, the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on or Universal Credit.  Children in local authority care, who get Disability Living Allowance or have a current statement of special education needs are also eligible.

How Does Free Childcare Work

How to apply

Applying for a nursery place can seem like a bit of a minefield when you first look into it. Obviously, it’s a good idea to do your research early and decide which type of childcare suits you and your child best. Rather than apply through the local authority as you would for a school place, for most care providers you need to apply directly to the nursery or childminder either in writing or online. A quick phone call to the provider will allow you to introduce yourself and request any forms that need filling out. Your local Children’s Information Services (CIS) will have details of all the nurseries offering free childcare in your area. Bear in mind that the most popular nurseries may be over-subscribed so have a choice of two or three providers that you’d be happy with.

Local authorities

Childcare is the responsibility of local authorities and so each council has slightly different policies on accessing free hours. If you need more information then your local council’s website should provide all the details you need.




About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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