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Life Chances

Help with childcare costs

The Government help with childcare costs for parents. Whether you have toddlers or teens, you could get support. Have a look at their Childcare Choices website to find out the different ways you can get help paying for your childcare.

Funded childcare

Funded childcare is now available to all 3 and 4-year-olds and some 2-year-olds.

From the term after their third birthday, until they start school, your child is entitled to up to 570 hours of funded early learning and childcare each year.

This is often taken as 15 hours per week for 38 weeks a year during school term time, although some childcare providers may allow you to use fewer hours per week, for more weeks of the year (known as a ‘stretched offer’). The hours can take place in nurseries (including school nursery classes), pre-schools, playgroups or at certain childminders.

Funded time can be taken between 6am and 8pm, for a maximum of 10 hours a day and at no more than 2 sites in a single day. There is no minimum amount of time that must be attended.

30 hours funded childcare

In September 2017, for eligible 3 and 4-year-old children, the government extended the funded early education and childcare entitlement from 15 to 30 hours per week (for 38 weeks, or 1140 hours per year). You can find out more about this offer in the Childcare Choices factsheet.

Check your eligibility and apply

Eligibility for 30 hours of funded childcare is checked by the government. You can find out more about the eligibility criteria and how to apply on their website.

If you disagree with your eligibility results or have any queries about the process please call the Childcare Service helpline on 0300 1234097.

You will need to have applied and received a code by a certain date in order to access 30 hours at the start of a funding period as follows:

Valid code with start date of on or before: Funding Period
31 August Autumn (from 1 September)
31 December Spring (from 1 January)
31 March Summer (from 1 April)

You should allow plenty of time to apply to ensure that a valid code is received well ahead of the deadline. You can apply for 30 hours before your child is eligible for 3 & 4 year old funding but you must have a valid code at the start of the funding period. Please note: if you become eligible after the start of a funding period, or eligibility has ended prior to the start of the funding period, you must wait until the following period to access your 30 hour place.

All eligible parents MUST reconfirm, their 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare entitlement every 3 months.

Speak to your provider

Talk to your childcare provider about your childcare needs and find out if they are offering 30 hours (not all providers are able to offer 30 hours and some childminders don’t accept any funding).

You can share your funded childcare between more than one provider, as long as you do not exceed 30 hours per week or 1140 hours per year.

Ask if the funding can be used during term-time only or stretched all year round. If you choose to stretch your funding this will give you fewer hours over more weeks of the year.

Some providers may charge for additional services or activities not covered by the 30 hours funding. These may include food and drinks or activities such as yoga and music. Ask your provider for a price list for any additional charges.

Pinpoint Devon has a list of providers who have confirmed they are offering the 30 hours.

Confirm your place

If you are eligible, you will receive an 11 digit code to take directly to your participating childcare provider. Your childcare provider will check the code and confirm your eligibility.

You should receive a contract or registration form to confirm your funded hours, chargeable hours and any optional services.

Once you have received your 11 digit code you can find it again in your Childcare service account using the green ‘Apply or sign into your account’ button and answer questions about your youngest child’s age and then sign in using your Government Gateway ID, which you received when you applied.

You will need to sign into your account to re-confirm your eligibility every three months.

Funded childcare for some 2-year olds

If you receive an invitation in the post, your child may be entitled to 2-year-old funding – but you will need to check your eligibility.

If you have not received an invitation but think you may be eligible, you can still check your eligibility or call us on 0345 155 1013 so that we can check for you.

If you are eligible you will be sent either an email or a message (you can choose which). If someone checked your eligibility for you then you will receive a letter in the post. Please take this information to your chosen nursery, preschool or childminder as proof of your eligibility.

Only those providers that are judged as good or outstanding by Ofsted will be funded to admit 2-year-olds. Occasionally, if there are not enough good or outstanding places in an area, a provider with a ‘requires improvement’ outcome will be funded. Find approved providers that take funded 2-year-olds.

Your 2-year-old is eligible for funded childcare if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • Child Tax Credits and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

2-year-olds can also get funded childcare if they:

  • are looked after by the Local Authority
  • have an Education, Health and Care Plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order

Parents or carers of foster children, children who are in the care of another local authority, children with additional needs or adopted children should apply online and attach supporting evidence to their application.

If you’re a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits

Your 2-year-old may get funded childcare if you are getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as ‘part 6’)
  • been refused asylum in the UK (known as ‘section 4’)

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and (one of the following applies):

  • you have leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ on family or private life grounds
  • you have the right to live in the UK because you’re the main carer of a British citizen (known as a ‘Zambrano Carer’)
  • you are excluded from claiming public funds as a consequence of immigration status, or lack of immigration status
  • you are in receipt of support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989

Find out more about these definitions at GOV.UK: Free education and childcare for 2-year-olds.

If you have any questions about 2-year-old funding please email

Tax-Free Childcare

The government introduced a Tax-Free Childcare scheme which can be used alongside the 15 and 30 hours of funded childcare. You can apply for both the 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare schemes through one online application.

If you are concerned that a child is being abused please call

0345 155 1071

or email

Professionals should complete the MASH contact form.

If it’s an emergency call 999