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The truth about 30 hours

With 30 hours edging ever closer, it will come as no surprise that I spend a great deal of my time as PACEY's Policy and Research Manager unpicking the detail behind the doubling of the early years entitlement in England.

Sadly, it is becoming increasingly apparent through the conversations I am having with our members, that there is not just a lack of information out there in the sector about 30 hours, but more worryingly, some of it is factually incorrect.

Last weekend I spent time with a group of PACEY Local Facilitators talking through the latest government policy updates and the implications for childcare providers. It was concerning to hear some of the inaccurate information that people have heard from local authorities and peers about 30 hours in particular.

At PACEY we know the 30 hours is not a policy without problems – not least due to the wide range in proposed funding levels around the country, from £3.60 in Dorset to £8.24 in Camden (you can read a summary of PACEY’s response to the Government’s new national funding formula here).

That said, I do think it is really important for providers to have all the facts in the front of them to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to offer 30 hours. Whether or not you have to offer the hours has, in itself, has been a subject of debate. It is important to stress that offering the early years entitlement is not compulsory. As the provider, you decide. 

The changes

The recent Government response to the consultation on 30 hours has led to some changes to the proposed implementation of the funded hours, and it is important for providers to be aware of the key points.

From September 2017, parents will be able to access funded hours between 6am 8pm, providing a longer period of time for them to use their ‘allowance’. This does not mean that your setting has to be open for 14 hours per day, but it is designed to provide greater flexibility for both parents and providers.

There will no longer be any minimum session length (it is currently 2.5 hours), but the maximum session length will still be 10 hours. There will be no mandatory pattern of delivery – as the provider, it will be completely up to you to decide when you offer parents funded hours. Both the current and extended entitlement will be able to be ‘stretched’ across the whole year to include school holidays and weekends.

Using the Entitlement

The Early Years Entitlement can be taken with up to two providers per day. While you will not be required to work in partnership with other providers, it will help. Parents may choose to split their funded hours between a childminder and sessional pre-school, for example. If you think this is something you would be interested in doing, I would advise you to start having discussions with potential partners (e.g. local primary schools, nursery schools, pre-schools and childminders) and your local authority, as soon as possible. Initial feedback from the 30-hour pilots has found that partnerships need to be very secure for parents to trust them.


We are really pleased that the issue of payment delays has finally been addressed. PACEY has long campaigned for childminders to be paid monthly – and this will be a legal requirement of local authorities by September 2018 at the latest. Delayed payments have long been a barrier for childminders and other small providers offering funded places. While there is a time lag before this comes into effect, when it does it will be of huge benefit.

Extra charges

Another issue that regularly crops up is what it is permissible to charge parents for when they are accessing a funded place. The Government has explicitly said that the funding for both the current 15 hours and the additional 15 does not include food or other consumables and additional services. Therefore, providers can and – frankly should – charge parents for discretionary consumables (e.g. drinks, meals, nappies, wipes) or additional services (e.g. day trips, special classes) as long as they are not compulsory and not a condition of taking up a funded place.

There will also be a national model agreement to bring clarity and consistency to agreements between LAs and providers. This should go some way in alleviating inconsistencies around the country. LAs will also have to be required to publish information about local childcare online and update it at least termly.

'National Grace Period'

One thing that is still under discussion is the length of the national grace period for children who fall out of eligibility, particularly when it happens in the summer term. Government is still consulting on this and we will update you in due course.

We know that as a provider, you can’t make a final decision as to whether you will offer 30 hours until you know what the funding rate will be in your area. We are expecting more on the Early Years National Funding Formula (EYNFF) imminently, as rates under the new formula are set to go in effect from April 2017.

Further support with 30 hours

Before you dismiss 30 hours out of hand, please talk to us, share your concerns and consider carefully the impact it will have on your business. What you can be sure of is that come next September parents will be looking for providers who offer 30 hours and it could offer a great business opportunity for you and your setting.

Comment below or email Susanna on

Hi, Iv got a question about splitting the 30 hours, does it have to be 15/15 split. Iv got a boy who will be starting nursery for 2 afternoons so only using 5 hours but the parents want me to offer the rest of the hours. How does that work? Can I only offer the top up 15 hours?
Hope to hear from you. Many thanks.
19/03/2019 09:26:08

Louise Delaney
What I'm planning to do is basically say the mimimum charge for a child is a half day (5hours). This must be taken before or after lunch so as I still have a seelable space (or I charge an additional hour).

The reason is I can't have one of my under 5 spaces taken up for less money. I charge £38 full day and £21 half. So I offer the hours as a block of 5 hours in either a morning or afternoon.

For working in partnership purposes. I would charge half a day for a nursery pickup/drop off. This is more expensive than a school pickup but you can only have 3 under 5's (2 in my case with my own child). So charging less than a half day is unrealistic.

Obviously if parents don't use all the hours in the block you offer them its their decision. I assume this is all ok?
15/05/2017 13:27:05

Maxine – the problems you describe in Dorset with delayed payments and lots of administrative errors and red tape are unfortunately quite widespread. I can completely understand your frustration! The good news is that the Government has publicly acknowledged these issues and is taking steps to make things better in an effort to make the 30-hour scheme a success. Firstly, all providers will be required to be paid monthly as soon as possible, and by September 2018 at the latest. Secondly, local authorities have been told they need to make it easier for providers to register to deliver funded places, and are being asked to use a model agreement so that there is more consistency across authorities. I certainly hope things improve in Devon soon!
02/02/2017 10:25:50

Hi @Lorraine Hawkins,

You will need to get in touch with your local authority to sign up to deliver funded places. You can find your local early years team here:
26/01/2017 10:00:43

lorraine hawkins
asked a question last year still haven't heard any think wanted to know what paper work you have to fill out to be a funded member

24/01/2017 12:36:47

maxine ewins
My local Devon LA have a very complicated and 'non-friendly' portal system to register funded children. I will have to wait from September till April to be paid the £3,70 per hour they pay. I hate dealing with them. They have a very 'take it or leave it' sort of attitude and I dont trust their calculations or their assertions that I didn't put something in the right box. on their portal so I will lose out on 3 months payment. I have a University degree, I am a EYP and hold QTS. I was one of the first childminders in Devon to offer funded places. This method of payment involving an often faulty and unpredictable automated payment system only ever works to the advantage of the LA. If they maintain that a box was not ticked they shouldnt have the right to keep your payment.
24/01/2017 08:30:30

Hi everyone, thanks again for all your comments and questions. I will do my best to respond to all of them.

Lorraine – The type and amount of paperwork required to deliver 30 hours will depend on your local authority, so you should contact your LA to find out more. Many authorities are moving to online systems. PACEY is currently working with government to try to reduce unnecessary paperwork and red tape, as we know this puts many people off offering funded places. We are pushing for more harmonisation of requirements across authorities.

Karen, Alison & Deborah – I completely understand your concerns about the funding rate. It is totally up to you whether you offer 30 hours, and you should not do so if it means your business is no longer sustainable. However, given the high level of parental demand, we are encouraging all providers to carefully consider whether there are ways in which you can make it work for your business, for example by ‘stretching’ the entitlement across more than 38 weeks (e.g. 47 or 48 weeks); sharing a 30-hour place with another provider; offering the entitlement at set times (e.g. Mon-Fri, 8am-2pm); and charging for food, drink and special activities/services (e.g. fees for playgroups, trips etc.). I think you will find that most parents would be willing to accept some (legal) conditions/charges rather than lose you as a provider, particularly given they are set to see their childcare costs drop significantly.

Jacky – Yes, the 1140 hours in the entitlement can be ‘stretched’ over as many weeks as you would like, and in fact government is actively encouraging this. If you decide to offer it over 40 weeks, it would amount to 28.5 hours per week. If you offered it over 48 weeks, it would amount to 23 hours and 45 minutes per week.

Kim & Marlene – PACEY is in the process of seeking clarity from government and Ofsted about partnership working under 30 hours, and specifically whether childminders will still be able to charge parents for the time a child is at nursery/pre-school if they are sharing delivery of a 30-hour place, as well as whether there will be any flexibility on ratios during the ‘transition’ time between settings. We will be publishing additional information on this as soon as we can.

Yvonne & Andrea – Unfortunately childminders cannot offer funded places to children related to them by blood (you are right that the situation is different for tax credits). PACEY believes this is deeply unfair, and we are raising this issue at every opportunity with government.

Andree – Providers awaiting inspection will be able to offer funded places. However, if they are later found to be less than ‘good’ by Ofsted, the local authority will have the discretion to either stop them from offering funded places or impose further requirements.
19/01/2017 12:08:30

Oh I didnt know related children were not allowed. Tax credit childcare IS allowed....confused and I have just offered a place to a related child for September assuming we would get funding?
17/12/2016 23:22:14

How soon will newly registered childminders be able to offer the 30 hours? will they still have to wait for Ofsted to inspect them as good or outstanding? I fear that they will not find much work, as most parents will be opting for funded places?
16/12/2016 09:39:30

Deborah Taylor-Morris
Already my 'normal' hourly rate is much higher than that offered by the Govt funding. With my existing clients ready to access the 30 hours in Sept I will be forced to take a pay cut of £2500+ per year. What other profession would be prepared to accept that? Parents are not allowed to pay top up fees and I already ask them to provide their own food, drinks, nappies and wipes. I am an Outstanding childminder with 20 years experience and I love my job and the children that I look after. Their parents are shocked by me being forced to take a pay cut by them taking up the funding. If the funded rate does not rise significantly I cannot see that I will continue to offer funded hours. This inevitably means that there will be a shortage of choice for parents of quality childcare. Surely this cannot be what was intended by the EYEF?
16/12/2016 07:15:00

Yvonne Wharfe
I currently childmind my grandson full time and he gets his funded hours January 2018. As i'm the only registered childminder of 27 years in our area, she will loose out her 15/30 hours what is she to do?
15/12/2016 19:07:44

I would really like to offer the +15 hours and I am happy to work in partnership with the local school. But I cannot work for £4.50 per hour. Under the first 15 hours to which all parents are entitled, there was the option of charging a day rate and then deduct the funding so the parents made up the difference. Is that still an option? The child in question would go to pre school 15 hours a week and then spend 24 hours a week with me.
14/12/2016 20:51:51

Kim Forteath
My concern is that parents want to use it to wrap around their school nursery place, meaning that they want me to collect after morning nursery and keep until tea time or have them in the morning then drop at afternoon nursery. This means that I cannot take another early years child for a full day which would earn me around£10 more per day as the hourly rate for Redcar and Cleveland is looking fairly low. If the ratio rules were more flexible to allow four under 5's (whilst always staying below six under 8) then one place could effectively be split between two children if one attends morning nursery and the other afternoon nursery. As it stands I lose a whole day place just because there would be a cross over of 45 minutes at lunchtime.
13/12/2016 13:51:41

Jacky Sloman
Can the 30 hours be stretched over 40 weeks
09/12/2016 21:49:57

I will lose nearly £50 a week if I offer 30 hours, so I am not going to offer any at all. A great shame really, as I was one of the first in the county to offer the free hours, many years ago and have done so many times since. It worked with a lot of my private school teachers as they only do 36 weeks, and paid a set daily fee - I have never charged by the hours, although their hours were only 8-4. I set out my terms and condition clearly at interview and they were all happy with their contracts.

I am lucky in that I can fill my spaces at £70+ a day and have a waiting list and full until at least September 2018. If parents want to take their free hours then they will have to leave and find an alternative, which is going to prove very difficult here as many are pulling out of the scheme as it is not sustainable.
09/12/2016 11:39:46

Karen Pinder
I really would like to know if the people that do the number crunching would be prepared to take a 10% pay cut as we are being all but being forced to.
09/12/2016 10:01:50

Lorraine Hawkins
Hi what sort of paper work do you have to do
08/12/2016 12:56:07

Hi Janice, we completely agree with you that it is unfair that childminders are not permitted to offer funded places to children related to them, and this is something we raise at every opportunity with ministers, officials and parliamentarians - including Caroline Dinenage a few weeks ago. And rest assured we will continue to do so until the policy is changed!
08/12/2016 10:43:13

Janice Walsh
Has there been any progress on allowing childminders to offer funded places to relatives? I have been a registered childminder, working full time for over 33years. I have 3 consequetive outstanding Ofsted grades. Yet I still cannot offer a funded place to my grandson who will be eligible next April. His little friends will be able to stay with me for all or part of their entitlement, but he will have to move if his parents wish to access the funding. His family are being denied the right to choose where they send him for funded place. I know I'm not alone is this situation but I feel it is so unfair!
I look forward to your response. Thankyou.
07/12/2016 14:46:29

Really nice to hear everyone's feedback! To answer some of your questions:

Roland - it is perfectly permissible to offer funded hours at set hours of the day - this is exactly what most schools already do! The Government has said that there will be no mandatory pattern of delivery.

Laura - local authorities will be required to pay providers the same rate for all funded hours, whether the first 15 or the second 15 (I know this is not happening in some of the pilot areas, but the Government has been clear that this will not be allowed to continue). As a provider, it is up to you how many funded hours you offer. You can continue to offer just 15; or more than 15 but under 30; or all 30. If you are planning to offer under 30, it might make sense to try to partner up with a local school or other sessional provider to make your offer more appealing to parents in search of all 30 hours.

Lisa & Bethany - last week the Government announced changes to the funding formula which mean an uplift of rates in some areas. New indicative rates are available here: Providers will be paid new rates from Spring 2017 - you need to contact your local authority to find out exactly how much you will receive.

Elena - the Government have made it clear that the 'free' hours do not include food, drinks and other consumables, and this information will be made clear to parents (see While you are correct that you cannot force parents to pay extra, the fact that their childcare bill will be drastically reduced may make them happy to pay £3-5/day for food and drinks rather than have to bring three meals, snacks and drinks with their child each day!
06/12/2016 11:18:31

we are planning to offer a morning session 7-12 and an afternoon session 2-6 , so a maximum of 9 hours per day. We will adjust the 12-2 lunchtime slot so as to make up for any funding shortfalls.
so we are offerring it - but not during lunchtimes.

The gvt may not like it - ok then if you are reading this employ us - with sick pay pensions etc. - no you say - what a surprise.
29/11/2016 21:12:58

Has the issue of whether the 15 universal hours and the 15 extra hours for working parents are at the same rate been finalised? Can we continue to offer the universal 15 hours and not offer the extra 15?
28/11/2016 15:43:51

Lisa tomlin
I do not have a problem in theory with offering the 30 free hrs it is very sad they the amount they pay is so low as it does make provisees feel valued and also means that I will always prioritise spaces to those who aren't funded which will make it more difficult for funded childten to access quality childcare. I also find the paperwork side of it very difficult and feel there is very litrue help with this we have not been ofeed training or specific guidance on how the paperwork should be completed yes there are serious implications if is not completed correctly. All these issues mean i do not "rush" to offer funded places to children but will do if it fits well. It also means children may not be offered space for the next term if I have a child interested who will not be funded as I would have to take the child that pays most. This would be very sad and disruptive to the child who would have to move and settle in another setting. I cannot be the only provider that feels this and surely thus should be considered when these things are decided. Paying more per hour would go a long way to solving most if these issues.
28/11/2016 09:08:49

Bethany Pierson-Smith
Hearing that the 30 hours will be payed monthly is a great reasurance. This information will make me sway towards offering it. Although I would like confirmation of the hourly rate. Great blog, thank you
27/11/2016 20:23:11

Wether we want to or not we have no choice but to take on the 30 hours, if you don't take it on you will have no children! The extra you can charge to parents is non compulsory, who would pay if they don't need to??? We are all being forced into this we have no choice otherwise we close!
25/11/2016 09:52:55

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