Free childcare? Thirty hours? Yes please I hear you cry – but nothing is as straightforward as it seems! Here’s everything you need to know about the new free childcare allowance.
When will the free 30 hour childcare be in place?
There are already free 15 hours in place, but from September 2017, the current allowance available to all parents will double for those who work to 30 hours.
Is everyone entitled to free childcare hours?
In short, no.
To qualify for either free childcare or Tax-Free Childcare, parents must be working and each earning at least £120 a week (on average) and not more than £100,000 each a year.
Your child will also need to be aged 3 or 4 when the scheme starts.
Parents can use Tax-Free Childcare alongside the 15 and 30 hours free childcare schemes in England, or any free childcare hours provided by the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland governments.
Parents can’t use Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as they receive childcare vouchers, Universal Credit or tax credits.
Families where one parent does not work, or neither parent works, will not usually be eligible. There are a few exceptions, however, when a parent is on maternity or paternity leave or is on statutory sick leave.
When and where can I use my free childcare?
The 30 hours is ‘free’ for only 38 weeks per year – not 52 weeks of the year. (Basically – school term times.)
Free hours are for use in the following participating childcare:
- Nurseries and nursery classes
- Playgroups and pre-school
- Sure Start Children’s Centres
How do I apply for free childcare hours?
If you want to apply for free care, you can do so through the government’s new Childcare Choices website. The site also has a handy Childcare Calculator that can help parents work out the financial support they are entitled to based on their needs.
Once you’ve applied, your application will be reviewed by HMRC. Those who qualify will then be sent a code – which will allow parents to pre-arrange their childcare place ahead of September 2017.
For more information on the new hours – head on over to the Gov.Uk site that explains everything in detail.