Helping parents understand 30 hours
30 hours free childcare sounds like most parents' dream. But there's more to it than that. Many have argued that the word "free" is causing major problems for providers - especially those whose local authority hourly rate falls short of the charge they currently make to parents.
We've produced a wealth of information to help you explain the scheme to parents, and also to help them understand what exactly is covered by "free". The government also has support for parents to get the information they need.
Please note that this information applies to parents and providers in England.
Parents can find out what childcare options are available to them at Childcare Choices - a government website. It includes interactive features that will help parents understand whether they are eligible for the various forms of help the government is offering.
This chart shows how all the available funding streams interact with each other.
Consider signposting parents directly to Childcare Choices when starting to talk to them about funded childcare. They should be able to tell you whether they are eligible.
The website is comprehensive and covers all available support:
- 15 hours free childcare
- 30 hours free childcare
- Tax-free childcare
- Tax credits for childcare
- Universal credit for childcare
- Childcare vouchers
- Care to Learn support for studying parents
The government's childcare calculator is a simple tool for parents to check what help they could get with childcare costs. They will need information about them and their partner (if they have one), including:
- how much they spend on childcare
- any benefits they or their child get
- their income
Armed with this information, parents should be able to work through the calculator in 10 minutes or so to get a clear idea of how much support they could be eligible for.
The upcoming expansion
Starting from April 2024, existing childcare support will be expanded in phases. By September 2025, most working families with children under the age of 5 will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare support.
The changes are being introduced gradually to make sure that providers can meet the needs of more families. This means that:
From April 2024, eligible working parents of 2-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours childcare support.
From September 2024, 15 hours childcare support will be extended to eligible working parents of children from the age of 9 months to 3-year-olds.
From September 2025, eligible working parents of children under the age of 5 will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare a week.
Like the existing offer, depending on your provider, these hours can be used over 38 weeks of the year (during school term time), or up to 52 weeks if you use fewer than your total hours per week.
Find out more and sign up for more details about the upcoming expansion from April 2024, as well as how and when to register for support with childcare costs.
Student Childcare Grant
If the parent/carer of one of the children in your setting is a full-time higher education student, eligible for student finance, they may also be eligible for help with their childcare costs.
In England, they can apply for a Childcare Grant, which does not have to be paid back, and is paid on top of their other student finance. The Childcare Grant is managed through the CCGPS online platform, which enables the student to authorise and send payments to their childcare provider(s) electronically. As a childcare provider, you’ll also need to register on the portal to enable the system to send you payments. Visit gov.uk for more information about how and when you can expect to be paid.
We have produced the following handy guides for parents to help you explain funded hours to parents.
Download our one-page guide for parents
FAQs for parents on 30 hours