How to get funded childcare

What is funded childcare?

The government could fund 15 to 30 hours of your child’s care, for up to 38 weeks a year.

The number of hours you can get depends on your child’s age and your circumstances. How you apply also varies.

These pages explain:

  • how many hours you could get
  • how and when to apply
  • how changes coming in 2024 and 2025 could benefit you

To find out what you can get right away, use Childcare Choices. This is the government eligibility checker.

Childcare Choices also explains other types of childcare funding, like tax-free childcare.

Childcare Choices eligibility checker

To find an approved childcare provider, search ESCIS. This is East Sussex County Council’s database.

ESCIS – Find a childcare provider

What funded childcare can you get?

All families – the universal offer

Everyone can claim 15 hours a week of funded childcare when their children are 3-4 years old. And this continues until they start school - even if that’s past their fifth birthday.

You apply through a childcare provider for this.

Working families – the extended offer

Working parents and carers can get an extra 15 hours of funded childcare for their 3-4 year olds.

This means you would get 30 hours a week in total. But you’ll need to meet certain conditions, like:

  • each partner in your household works at least 16 hours a week
  • each partner in your household earns at least £139 a week
  • neither partner in your household earns over £100,000 per year
  • if you’re a single-parent family, you’ll need to meet the same criteria.

If your family doesn’t meet the income levels, you might still get the extended offer if you get benefits or other support.

Working families will also be able to claim funded childcare for younger children from April 2024 and September 2025.

You apply through HMRC for this.

Families of disadvantaged 2-year-olds

The government offers funded childcare to families with disadvantaged 2-year-olds. This may include you if you or your partner:

  • receive benefits, allowances or other government support
  • have a disability or if your child has a disability
  • arrived from another country and cannot claim benefits

You apply through us for this.

Foster carers

If your foster child is two years old, they already qualify for 15 hours a week for disadvantaged 2-year-olds.

After that, all 3–4-year-olds get 15 hours a week funded childcare. However, as a foster carer, you could boost this to 30 hours a week if you have extra paid work. For example:

  • you’re a sole foster carer and you also have a paid job
  • you’re a couple and one of you works while the other receives benefits
  • you’re a couple and both do paid work and foster

You can also claim funded childcare for younger children from April 2024 and September 2025.

You apply through us for this.

When can you start funded childcare?

The government is providing more childcare for working families. This will start between April 2024 and September 2025.

0-8 months old:

There is no funded childcare available.

9-23 months old

  • available now: no funded childcare available
  • from April 2024: 15 hours a week for working families
  • from September 2025: 30 hours a week for working families

2 years old

  • available now: 15 hours a week for disadvantaged 2-year-olds
  • from April 2024: 15 hours a week for working families
  • from September 2025: 30 hours a week for working families

3–4-year-olds

  • available now: 15 hours a week for all children
  • available now: 30 hours a week for working families

Can you start your funded childcare on your child’s birthday?

You won’t be able to start your free childcare on your child’s birthday. You have three funding windows a year to apply. They match the dates of the school terms:

  • Autumn: September to December
  • Spring: January to March
  • Summer: April to August

You apply and get approval. Then you can start in the next funding period.

For example:

  • your child’s birthday is in September – the autumn term
  • you apply and get approved - later in the autumn term
  • they start their funded childcare in January - the spring term

Try and allow at least a month for your application to be processed. Or you may not get approval in time to start in the next term.

What if you need extra hours?

If you need more hours per week, ask your childcare provider to add them as non-funded hours. You then pay them their private rate for the extra hours.

How to get funded childcare in the school holidays

Many childcare providers, like nurseries and childminders, open throughout the year. If yours does, you can ask them to spread out your 38 weeks of funded childcare over the extra weeks. This is called a stretched offer.

Will you have to pay anything for your funded childcare?

Your childcare provider can’t ask you to pay more to “top up” your funded hours. But they may charge you for extra time and services.

Ask your provider to explain about any extra fees they will charge you.