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Extra time for threes and fours

From September 2017, working parents will be able to access up to 30 hours of free childcare and early learning during term time.

Currently all three year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare from the term after their third birthday. The new entitlement will allow parents to claim an additional 15 hours; they need to work the equivalent of 16 hours per week at least at the national minimum or living wage, which would make individual earnings between approximately £5,000 and £99,999.99 per person. (Full criteria below) 

This new entitlement means 30 hours per week during term time or dependant on their provider, up to 1,140 hours ‘stretched’ over 52 weeks (fewer hours over more weeks).

As with the current 15 hour entitlement, the additional hours will be available to children from the term after their third birthday. Those who aren’t entitled will carry on receiving their current 15 hour provision.

Parents will be able to apply for the additional entitlement through a parent portal on the HMRC website before having their eligibility confirmed and verified through the council. Parents will then need to revisit the parent portal every three months to verify their eligibility for the 30 hours hasn’t changed.

These additional 15 hours can be taken flexibly between the hours of 6am to 8pm and split over two providers in any one day, Monday to Sunday, to a maximum of 10 hours per day.

It’s important to note childcare providers may not be able to and do not have to, provide the full 30 hours entitlement within their setting.

The free entitlement is available to children if

  • Their parent or both parents are working the equivalent of 16 hours per week at least at the national minimum or living wage, which would make individual earnings between approximately £5,000 and £99,999.99 per person
  • Their parent or parents earn less than £100,000 per year each, for dual parent households
  • The entitlement also extends to those who are self-employed
  • One or both parents are temporarily away from work on maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave
  • One or both parents are temporarily away from work and in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay
  • One parent is in receipt of benefits relating to caring responsibilities or their own disability
  • One parent is employed and one parent is disabled or is incapacitated and receiving specific benefits

Parent means a person with parental responsibility for the child or care of the child in cases where the parent has remarried or is living with a partner, the step-parent or partner must also meet the earnings threshold.

The current entitlement of 15 hours will remain for all parents who are not eligible for 30 hours (570 hours per year over 38 weeks during term time).

Application process and ‘grace period’

  • Parents can apply for the 30 hour entitlement through the parent portal on www.childcarechoices.gov.uk from Friday 28 April. If you apply using Childcare Choices from April 28, you will be given a temporary code and can use this to check with your Local Authority that you are eligible. Then you will be given a permanent code when you are required to confirm your code.
  • To continue accessing the 30 hours, parents will need to verify their eligibility at least every three months via the HMRC parent portal
  • Parents can choose to take the 30 hour entitlement within a school nursery class, with a private day nursery or pre-school or with a registered childminder
  • Eligible children who are in a school nursery class can receive 30 hours if the school is able to offer a place until they take up a full time place in reception class
  • Parents who become unemployed will be permitted a ‘grace period’ whereby their child will still have access to 30 hours entitlement up to six weeks after they have changed circumstances to allow the parent time to find new employment. If the parent is not successful they will revert back to the standard 15 hours entitlement.

If childcare providers are able:

  • Childcare providers may not be able to and do not have to, provide the full 30 hours entitlement
  • Parents can choose to split their child’s entitlement over two providers in any one day
  • Parents can take their offer flexibly between the hours of 6am to 8pm
  • The maximum hours permitted in one day is 10 hours, there are no minimum hours which parents need to access
  • Parents can take their offer on any day Monday to Sunday
  • Parents can choose to take less hours per week and stretch their child’s entitlement over more weeks for example 23.45 hours over 48 weeks of the year, if the childcare provider is able.

Frequently asked questions

  • What will I need to do to access the additional 15 hours? Families who meet the earnings criteria will make an online application to HMRC; parents will need to provide their National Insurance (NI) number for this.
  • When can I apply? The application process is not yet available, it is expected to open on April 28 2017. You can find out more and register for updates at www.childcarechoices.gov.uk
  • What will happen after I apply? Families who make a successful application for the additional 15 free hours will receive an eligibility code from HMRC. This will need to be verified, by your childcare provider, through the council’s childcare team. Information on how to do this will be available here once the portal opens.
  • What else do I need to do? Parents should be asking their childcare provider if and how they could take 30 hours from September 2017. Some providers may not have availability or be able to offer the full 30 hours in a week, but parents can split funding between two providers.
  • Do I need to do anything else? Parents receiving 30 hours must validate their additional entitlement every three months via HMRC to continue receiving their additional 15 hours. HMRC will alert parents when they need to validate their entitlement but the it’s the parent’s responsibility to ensure they do so.
  • What happens if my situation changes and I no longer meet the criteria? If a family no longer meet the criteria, a grace period of six weeks would be given to allow them to find employment/ increase hours etc. If a family did not meet the criteria after the grace period elapsed, they would no longer receive 30 hours but would revert back to the standard 15 hour entitlement.

What do childcare providers need to know?

We’re currently speaking to providers across the borough to determine what 30 hours means for them, if and how they can offer this as part of the free entitlement from September 2017.

Some providers may not be in a position to offer above the current 15 hour entitlement and those who can offer the additional hours, must decide if they stay 'term time only' or offer 'stretched' hours over more weeks of the year.

  • What if I can’t offer 30 hours per week? You will need to let parents know and advise them that they can split their entitlement between two childcare providers. It might be useful to consider partnerships with other providers/ schools so parents and their children can seamlessly share the 30 hours across two providers.

  • How do I verify eligibility? All three and four year olds will continue to get 15 hours of free childcare. Families who meet the earnings criteria must make an online application to HMRC to confirm eligibility to receive 15 additional hours (totalling 30 hours). Parents can apply when the HMRC portal opens in the spring. Families confirmed eligible will be provided with a code from HMRC which their childcare provider will need to verify with the council’s childcare team.

  • How do I claim for a child on 30 hours? Providers will need to verify the parent code with Dudley Council’s childcare team before confirming the additional free hours with the parent, details on how to do this will be communicated to providers before the HMRC portal opens. Once the code has been verified you will then submit a claim to the council as part of the normal claim process.