03: Childcare and education funding

All three to four-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. This is usually taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year. Some two-year-olds are also eligible. You may be able to get help from the government to pay for childcare like childminders and nurseries. You must use ‘approved childcare’ to qualify for help.

The free early education and childcare can be at:

Contact your local council for more information about free early education and childcare in your area. You can also search for help with childcare in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

You can’t continue to claim free childcare once your child starts reception class in a state school.

Three to Four-year-olds

You can start claiming free childcare after your child turns 3. The date you can claim will depend on when their birthday is.

Child’s birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March the beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August the beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December the beginning of term on or after 1 January

Example Your child was born on 15 February 2012. They can get free early education and childcare from the start of term following 1 April 2015.

Contact your local council to check if your child is eligible.

Two-year-olds

Two-year-olds in England can receive free early education and childcare if:

If your child is eligible, you can start claiming after they turn two. The date you can claim will depend on when their birthday is.

Child’s birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March the beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August the beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December the beginning of term on or after 1 January

Contact your local council to check if your child is eligible.

Inspections of early education providers

Early education providers are regulated and inspected by Ofsted. You can find out more about their inspections and read their inspection reports at:

http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/

This web site allows you to search providers by name or location and then read the report that Ofsted has made and also when it was inspected – the more recent the more relevant.

https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/overview

Overview of Funding

You may be able to get help from the government to pay for childcare like childminders and nurseries. You must use ‘approved childcare’ to qualify for help.

To find an approved childcare provider search:

Approved childcare can also include:

Tax Credits

You could get extra tax credits to help pay for some of your childcare costs while you’re working.

You can get up to £122.50 extra per week for 1 child, or £210 extra for 2 or more children – depending on how much you earn.

It won’t cover all of your childcare costs – use the tax credits childcare calculator to work out what childcare costs you can claim.

You could get help with your childcare costs with Universal Credit instead of tax credits. You can’t get Universal Credit and tax credits at the same time.

Foster carers

You can’t claim for caring for your own foster child.

There are special rules for foster carers in Wales and Northern Ireland – this link (https://www.gov.uk/tax-credits-calculator) will give you more information to see if you qualify.

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