Help with childcare costs
There is help available for parents of children 0 to 16 depending on your circumstances.
All families in England with 3 and 4-year-old children can claim 15 hours of funded childcare a week. But you may be able to claim more funded childcare hours, child tax credits, and other forms of financial support.
Funded childcare for 2-year-olds
You may be able to claim up to 15 hours of funded childcare per week, for up to 38 weeks a year.
Find out if you qualify for 2 year funding.
- Apply here to: register or sign in for 2 year funding - GOV.UK
Most childcare providers offer 2 year funding: check with the provider.
Most only offer funded places during term time. Discuss with them to see if they can spread this across the whole year.
Funded childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds
From the term after their 3rd birthday, all children get 15 hours funded childcare. This is per week, for up to 38 weeks a year, until they go to school.
Most childcare providers only provide funded places during term time, but some will spread it across the year.
After you register, your provider will apply for funding for you. Places are available at nurseries and some childminders.
- Talk to your provider.
- More on funded childcare for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds
- The Professional association for childcare and early years (Pacey) has information concerning coronavirus (COVID-19): Parent information on taking your child to childcare
Working parents 30 hours offer
Working parents of 3 or 4-year-olds can apply for up to 30 hours funded childcare a week - GOV.UK.
You could still be eligible if you, or your partner, are:
- on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or
- unable to work because you are disabled or have caring responsibilities.
Get your 30 hours code in good time for next funding period: apply by the end of December.
You must revisit your account to re-validate your code every three months.
If you need help applying for the 30 hours funded childcare, telephone HMRC on 0300 123 4097.
Most childcare providers offer the 30 hours funded childcare, contact them to check.
30 hours offer for foster children
Children in foster care aged 3 and 4 can get 30 hours funded childcare a week if their:
- social worker agrees it fits with their care plan and
- you and your partner (if any) are working outside of fostering
- How to apply for: 30 hours for foster children
Other help with childcare costs
Some employers help with childcare costs through the childcare voucher scheme - GOV.UK or a staff nursery. Childcare voucher schemes allow employees to pay for childcare from their salary before tax and NI deductions.
Working parents on low incomes might be entitled to tax credits - GOV.UK to help pay for childcare costs.
Full-time students might be entitled to a childcare grant - GOV.UK.
You can get access to Holiday activities and food for your children if they receive free school meals.
Have you had technical problems with your Tax Free Childcare account?
If so please see HMRC’s Childcare Service Compensation - GOV.UK to make a claim.
If you have a question that we did not answer here, please contact the Customer Relations team:
- Telephone: 0345 60 80 192
- email: Early Years Education Entitlement
More on funded childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year olds
Funding is available to all eligible children from the funding period after their 2nd or 3rd birthday.
When your child’s funding begins
Children born between:
- 1 April and 31 August will receive their funded entitlement from September
- 1 September and 31 December will receive their funded entitlement from January
- 1 January and 31 March will receive their funded entitlement from April
2 year funding - up to 15 hours per week
To claim, families must meet one of the following criteria:
- Income Support
- Income based Jobseeker’s allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support allowance
- Support under part 6 of the immigration and asylum act
- Guaranteed element of the state pension credit
- Child tax credit with an annual gross household income of no more than £16,190
- Working Tax Credits and earn no more than £16,190
- Working Tax Credit 4 week run-on (paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for working tax credit
- Universal Credit – and earn no more than £15,400
Or, the child:
- is looked after by the local authority
- is adopted from care
- has left care through adoption, residence order or special guardianship
- has as an Education, Health and Care plan
- receives disability living allowance
- Apply for 2 year funding This link will take you to the Parent Portal page. Please click 'Create Account' to apply for 2-year-old funding.
You will receive a voucher code to show to the Early Years Provider.
You must then:
- complete a parental declaration and
- provide a copy of their child’s birth certificate or passport
If you are a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits
Your 2-year-old may get free childcare if you are getting: support under the Immigration and Asylum Act -GOV.UK and have either:
- claimed asylum - GOV.UK 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 you have either:
- leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ on family or private life grounds - GOV.UK
- the right to live in the UK because you are the main carer of a British citizen (known as a ‘Zambrano Carer’) - GOV.UK
If you are unsure if you can get free childcare contact the Early Years Funding team.
3 and 4 year old funding
(Universal Offer) – 15 Hours per week
All children can claim up to 15 hours per week from the funding period after their 3rd birthday (please refer to 'when your child’s funding begins' above).
15 hours per week term-time only (38 weeks per year)
complete a parental declaration.
provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate or passport
(Extended Offer) – 30 Hours per week
For families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family):
You (and your partner) must each expect to earn at least £139 per week. This is equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage.
If you are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave you may still be eligible. If you are unable to work due to a disability or having caring responsibilities, you may also qualify.
If either you or your partner expect to earn £100,000 or more, you will not be able to receive 30 hours free childcare.
Foster Carers (subject to approval from child’s social worker) qualify.
Parents apply to HMRC via the website: Childcare Choices - GOV.UK
You must apply for the 30-hour code before the start of a new funding period.
To start claiming 30 hours from:
January you must apply for the code by 31 December
April you must apply for the code by 31 March
September you must apply for the code by 31 August
If application is successful, you will receive an 11-digit voucher code. You must take the voucher code to your Early Years Provider, who will confirm the code.
complete a parental declaration and
provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate or passport
About the funding
Where you can claim the funding
To find an early years provider in your area, you can search on the ESCIS online directory.
Funded 2 year olds can only claim funding with a provider rated good or outstanding with Ofsted. You can also claim funding with a new provider who has not yet received an inspection from Ofsted. You can search ESCIS for a full list of providers.
The hours for a funded place are free
Your provider may charge for meals and snacks. The provider can also charge for consumables such as nappies or sun cream and for services such as a trip or forest school. You will need to discuss these options with your provider.
If you are unable to pay these extra costs, you should discuss this with your provider. Your provider will be able to offer an alternative option for you
You will need to complete a Parental Declaration Form and provide a copy of your child’s birth certificate or passport. This proves your child is age eligible.
You can get a copy of a birth certificate - GOV.UK, by visiting the GOV.UK website.
You will need to check with your provider the times and days when the funded hours are available. Every provider will have a different offer to their families. Tell your provider if you only want the funded hours.
Early Years providers:
must not charge “top-up” fees This is the difference between a provider’s normal fee and the funding they receive
must not require parents to pay a registration fee as a condition of taking up their child’s funded place
can charge a deposit to secure a funded place. They must refund the deposit in full once the child starts claiming their funding
must ensure that their invoices are clear, transparent and itemised
30 hour funding
You must apply and receive their 11-digit voucher codes before the start of the funding period. Funding periods start in January, April and September.
Give the voucher code to the Early Years Provider. The provider will confirm the code before they can start claiming funding.
You must reconfirm your eligibility with HMRC around every 3 months. If you forget to reconfirm, this may affect the extended funded hours. But this does not affect your entitlement to the universal 15-hour offer.
East Sussex will notify Early Years Providers when a voucher code is due to expire.
What is “Headcount Day”?
The Council collects information on children claiming funding 3 times a year. This is “Headcount Day”. Children must attend a provider before the headcount day to allow them to claim funding. For example:
for the autumn funding period children must be registered with a provider by 23 September 2021
for the spring funding period children must be registered with a provider by 20 January 2022
for the summer funding period children must be registered with a provider by 29 April 2021
If you register your child in time your provider can claim the greatest number of weeks of funding.
If you miss ‘Headcount Day’ your provider will submit a late claim. Your funding will be reduced to the number of weeks left in the funding period.
Claiming your funded hours
You can claim up to 15 hours per week (Universal Offer) or up to 30 hours per week (Extended Offer).
You do not have to take the full 15 or 30 hours. You can choose any combination of hours that are available with your provider.
You can only increase the funded hours at the start of a funding period, not during the funding period.
For example, if your circumstances change during the funding period and you want to increase your child's hours, your provider will charge their normal hourly rate. At the start of the next funding period, you will be able to increase your funded hours.
You can claim at more than one provider. You can also claim funding from more than one Local Authority. But you cannot claim more than 15 or 30 hours per week. Local authorities check funding. If you over claim you will have to repay the cost.
You can claim no more than 10 hours in one day. You can take your funded hours Monday to Sunday but not before 6am or after 8pm. You may attend no more than two providers in a single day.
Some schools have a staggered start in September. If your child’s start date to reception class is later than the set funding period dates, you cannot claim. If the staggered start causes a childcare problem, you will need to discuss this with the school.
Funding is available to families who have deferred their child’s school place. This is available until the child reaches statutory school age.
Children who access a funded place in a school nursery do not get guaranteed admission to the school. You must apply for a place at the school if you want your child to transfer to the reception class.
Changing childcare providers
Once your child is included on a headcount claim, you can move to another provider in East Sussex. You must ensure that you follow the terms and conditions set by your existing provider. For example, you must pay any outstanding fees.
Check with your provider how many weeks’ notice you must give. The maximum notice for funded hours is 6 weeks.
Funding may not transfer to a new provider if you do not give notice to your existing provider. The expected notice period is 4 weeks, some providers will need 6 weeks.
Your new provider cannot claim more hours than the original claim. You may need to pay for any extra hours you choose to take up with your new provider.
A ‘stretched’ childcare
Providers who are open for more than 38 weeks a year can offer the funding for the weeks they are open. You will receive less funded hours a week, but your funding will cover the school holidays. For example:
A nursery open 38 weeks per year offers 15 or 30 hours per week (total of 570 or 1140 hours)
A nursery open 48 weeks per year offers 11.75 or 23.75 hours per week (total of 570 or 1140 hours)
A nursery open 51 weeks of the year offers 11 or 22.25 hours per week (total of 570 or 1140 hours)
It is possible to stretch any of the funded hours. Your funding claim must not exceed 15 or 30 hours per week or 570 or 1140 hours per year.
For example, if you wish to claim 20 hours per week because you are eligible for the extended offer, this can be claimed as below:
20 hours per week x 51 weeks per year =1,020 hours. Your provider will submit a claim based on 38 weeks, therefore will claim 26.75 hours each funding period. You will have 120 hours left that could be claimed with another provider, but this will equate to approx. 3 hours per week x 38 weeks a year.
Extra funding for providers
Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP)
Early Years providers can claim up to an extra £302.10 per year to support children in their setting. They can claim for eligible 3 or 4 year olds whose parent receives at least one of the following:
Income based Jobseeker’s allowance
Income-related Employment and Support allowance
Support under part 6 of the immigration and asylum act
Guaranteed element of the state pension credit
Child tax credit and earn no more than £16,190 (provided not also entitled to Working Tax Credit)
Working Tax Credit 4-week run-on (paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for working tax credit
Universal Credit – and earn no more than £7,400
Or, the child is:
looked after by the local authority
adopted from care
left care through adoption, residence order or special guardianship
Parents must complete the EYPP section on the parental declaration. If eligible, this will last for a year.
Childcare settings must show Ofsted how they have used the funds to improve your child’s education.
Disability Access Fund (DAF)
This is an annual one-off payment to the Early Years provider for a child who is:
an age eligible 3 or 4-year-old; and,
receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Can only be claimed with one provider.
complete the Disability Access Fund section on the parental declaration
provide evidence to the Early Years Provider that the child is in receipt of DLA
This is available for:
- working families, including the self-employed, in the UK
- with children under 12 (or under 17 if disabled)
For every £8 you pay in, the government will add an extra £2, up to £2,000 per child – that’s up to £500 every three months.
Working parents open an online account to pay for registered childcare.
Parents can only make payments from their Tax-Free childcare accounts to Early Years providers who have signed up to the scheme.
HMRC delivers the scheme. For further details see the GOV.UK website, Childcare Choices - GOV.UK.
All Early Years providers who are registered for the funding will have a unique offer to parents. You will need to discuss with the early years provider how you can claim your funded hours with them.
All information submitted to the Early Years Funding Team is held in compliance with the Data Protection Act.
The information requested on the Parental Declaration is necessary to complete the Headcount claim at your child’s Early Years provider and for the claim of Early Years Funding from the Department for Education (DfE).
Any information that you supply may be shared with other departments within ESCC, DfE and local NHS agencies.
This form will be retained by your provider, for the current academic year (September – August), plus 2 years from completion date and made available at the request of East Sussex County Council auditors.
Once the retention period is over your provider will destroy this information.
You can complain to East Sussex County Council if you are not satisfied, that
- your child has received their free entitlement place or
- with any aspect in the way that they have received the funded place
Early Years Funding Team
County Hall, East G
St Anne’s Crescent
For general enquiries about the free entitlement, please contact Customer Relations on
- Telephone: 0345 60 80 192 (The line is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 2pm)
- General childcare information
For HMRC childcare enquiries see the Childcare Choices website:
- Website: Childcare Choices - GOV.UK
- Telephone: 0300 123 4097 (helpline)
30 hours funded childcare for foster children
Some children in foster care may receive up to 30 hours funded childcare, giving foster families the same support as other families.
Applications are decided by the East Sussex Early Years Funding Team, with approval from the child's social worker needed before applying. You will need to provide proof of earnings to the Early Years Funding team before completing an application form.
Working families of 3 and 4-year olds in England can get up to 30 hours childcare for 38 weeks of the year. This is on top of the 15-hour universal entitlement for all 3 and 4-year-olds. Children in foster care are already entitled to the universal 15 hours.
Children in foster care aged 3 or 4 years old will be able to receive 30 hours funded childcare if accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan, and:
- a single foster carer is working outside of fostering
- one of a couple fostering works outside of fostering and the other carer receives benefits
- a couple is fostering and both carers are working outside of fostering
If your application is successful, you will receive your eligibility code from East Sussex Early Years Funding Team.
For more information, email the Early Years Funding team.
Timescales for applying
Foster carers can apply up to 16 weeks before their foster child turns three.
They can claim 30 hours from the funding period after their foster child turns three. The funding periods start on
- 1st September
- 1st January
- 1st April
If your application is successful
If an application is successful, the Early Years funding team will:
- generate an 11-digit code
- email code to the foster carer
- inform the child’s social worker
The foster carer gives the code to an early years provider of their choice and agrees a 30-hour place. (Some early years providers may charge for consumables/services as part of a funded place).
The early years provider will use the code to receive payment from the Early Years Funding team.
Foster carers must reconfirm their eligibility every three months. The child’s social worker will need to confirm the:
- placement for the child is still ongoing
- accessing the 30 hours is still consistent with the child’s care plan
- foster carers are still in paid work outside their role as a foster carer (evidence provided)
You must reconfirm the foster child’s place before the end of the three-month period. If you do not the child may no longer be eligible for 30 hours childcare.
Covid-19 - taking your child to childcare
The professional association for childcare and early years (PACEY) has a page of coronavirus (COVID-19) parent information on taking your child to childcare.