Tax-Free Childcare: 30-hour free childcare
In England, all three and four year olds can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. This is around 15 hours a week over 38 weeks. In addition families in paid work may be able to claim 30-hour free childcare.
In Scotland, all three and four year olds can get 1,140 hours of free early education or childcare per year. Some two-year-olds can also qualify for free childcare if you are in receipt of certain benefits.
In England, parents/carers who meet certain work conditions may be able to access an additional 15 hours free childcare – making a total of 30 hours free childcare. To qualify each claimant will need to expect to earn at least £1,976.00 over the next three-month entitlement period if you are aged 23 or over (the relevant national minimum wage x 16 hours a week x 13 weeks, but there are exceptions – for example if you are on maternity leave or sick leave).
The scheme can be used whether the claimant(s) are employed or self-employed as long as they meet this earnings level. If they are self-employed they will be exempt from meeting this earnings level in their first 12 months of self-employment and some self-employed claimants will be able to average their earnings over a 12-month period when working out if they meet the minimum earnings level.
It is still possible to be eligible if one parent is working and the other is not working because they have a disability or substantial caring responsibilities, or they are off work temporarily due to sickness or maternity leave.
If hours decrease so that they lose eligibility there will be a grace period that allows them to keep your 30 hours for a short period, after which they will return to 15 hours free childcare.
The additional 15 free hours cannot be claimed if either person has adjusted net income of over £100,000 a year.
30 hours free childcare (other parts of the UK)
From August 2021, all 3 and 4 year olds and a quarter of all 2 year olds are able to access 1140 hours of Early Learning and Childcare, funded by the Scottish Government. This works out about 30 hours a week during term time. You can find out more on the parent club website.
A similar scheme has been rolled out in Wales – childcare offer Wales – which provides up to 30 hours a week of early education and childcare. The 30 hours is made up of a minimum of 10 hours of early education a week and a maximum 20 hours a week of childcare and is dependent on how much early education is offered by your local authority. The eligibility conditions can be found on the Welsh Government’s website.
If someone is claiming free childcare hours, they cannot claim help to cover the same hours from other childcare schemes such as tax credits. They can however use other schemes, in conjunction with the free childcare hours offering – to help pay for any childcare costs over and above the 15/30 free hours for example. So it is possible to claim TFC to help with the costs of additional hours (in excess of the 30 hours of free childcare).
Last reviewed/updated 26 May 2022