30 hours free childcare:  Extended entitlement for working parents

From September 2017 some working parents will be entitled to an extra 15 hours early education or childcare for their 3 and 4 year old child. If eligible you can have 30 hours instead of the usual 15 hours over 38 weeks per year. This can be stretched over more than 38 weeks. Eligibility starts the term after your child’s third birthday as with the universal entitlement.

Am I eligible? Families will be eligible where:

  • Both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family), and each parent earns, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW), and each parent earns less than £100,000 per year.
  • Parents’ earnings must reflect the equivalent value of at least 16 hours of work at NMW or NLW, which is £107 a week at the current NMW rate. This includes those parents on zero-hour contracts who meet the criteria.
  • The minimum amount will always be judged against the lowest hourly rate that a person of the parent’s age could legally be paid as minimum wage rates vary by age.
  • Working will include the employed and self-employed and those on zero-hour contracts, and also those away from work due to statutory sick pay, maternity, paternity or adoption leave and where one parent is working and the other is in receipt of benefits due to caring responsibility or disability.

How can I sign up for this?

Visit a childcare provider/s that you would like to use and they will help you fill in an application and provide evidence. There will soon be an online application for parents to check eligibility for September 2017.  To find childcare in your area or more information visit: www.newcastlesupportdirectory.org.uk

How can I use my extended hours?

  • You can use your 30 hours over 38 weeks of the year or stretched over more weeks i.e. 22.8 hours over 50 weeks of the year, though some providers will have fixed session times.
  • You may be able to use your hours from 6am or until 8pm and at the weekend - for instance childminders can sometimes provide earlier or later hours than a day nursery or playgroup.
  • You can use up to three different providers for instance a school playgroup a childminder and a day nursery. But you need to let each provider know you are using other provision.
  • Any additional hours used will be paid for by you at the rate for this provider - which will vary.

Am I eligible for 30 hours free childcare?

The extra 15 hours are available from September 2017 to parents* of 3 and 4 year olds where:

  • Both parents are working** (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family), and each parent earns, on average:
  • a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW), and
  • less than £100,000 per year.

At present, the living wage is £7.20 an hour. Therefore, the minimum income requirement for a parent (over 25) is £115.20 a week. The minimum wage for 21 to 24 year olds is £6.70 an hour – therefore, the minimum income requirement for this group is £107.20 a week***.   

  • A parent expects (on average) to earn this amount over the coming three months. The eligibility criteria have been designed to accommodate parents with fluctuating incomes and those who are about to start working or increase their hours.
  • For example, a parent who is on a zero-hours contract will get work some weeks, but not others, and may not know in advance if they will have work in any given week. If, on average they work two weeks out of every three, and when they are working they get 25 hours of work at the minimum wage, their child will qualify for 30 hours of free childcare.
  • Families where one parent does not work (or neither parent works) will not usually be eligible for the extended entitlement EXCEPT where:
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity, adoption leave, or on statutory sick pay
  • One parent is employed and one parent either has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring, or is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits.
  • The person applying for the childcare (usually the parent) is ‘resident in the UK’.


*A 'parent' means a person who has parental responsibility for the child or care of the child. In cases where a parent has remarried or is living with a partner, the step-parent or partner must also meet the earnings threshold. Foster carers are eligible for the extended entitlement if they meet the criteria set out above for their own children. Foster carers are not eligible for the extended entitlement for the children that they foster.

**Working includes employed persons, self-employed persons and parents on zero hours contracts who meet the criteria.

***Note that these rates reduce to £5.30 for 18-21 year olds, £3.87 for under 18s and £3.30 for apprentices.


Printable sheets and Website links for further information:

30 hours free extended entitlement (A4 summary) (pdf)

30 hours free extended entitlement (full version) (pdf)

30 hours frequently asked questions (pdf)

Tax free childcare (external link)

To register for emails about new childcare schemes 2017 (external link)




Page last updated: 
3 February 2017
Was this page useful?