How the 30 hours' free childcare scheme works, and how it will be extended at 2023 Budget
Jeremy Hunt is set to extend the Government’s offer of 30 hours of free childcare a week to parents of one and two-year-olds in today’s Budget.
The scheme is currently only available to parents of three and four-year-olds in England. There are separate, similar schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The extension comes as part of the Chancellor’s drive to encourage more people back into the workforce. He is also set to announce additional support for parents on universal credit.
Here’s how the free childcare scheme works, and what will change in today’s Budget explained.
Who currently gets 30 hours of free childcare?
In England, all parents of three and four-year-olds can get currently claim 570 hours of free childcare a year, equating to up to 15 hours a week.
Some parents can apply for an additional 15 hours’ worth of childcare a week, bringing the total up to 30 hours. Eligibility depends on factors including whether you are working, your income and circumstances, and your immigration status.
You can usually get 30 hours of free childcare if you (and your partner, if you have one) are:
You may also be eligible if your partner is working, and you receive incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance, carer’s allowance, limited capability for work benefit or contribution-based employment and support allowance.
To be eligible, over the next three months you and your partner (if you have one) must each expect to earn at least:
• £1,976 if you’re aged 23 or over
• £1,000 if you’re under 18 or an apprentice
This is at least the national minimum wage or living wage for 16 hours a week on average.
You must also have a national insurance number and at least one of the following:
• settled or pre-settled status (or you have applied and are waiting for a decision)
• permission to access public funds (your UK residence card will tell you if you cannot do this)
If you have a partner, they must have a national insurance number too.
You will not be eligible if your child does not usually live with you.
How will this change in the Budget?
The Chancellor will announce that parents of one and two-year-olds will also now be able to claim 30 hours of free childcare.
Exact details, including when this will begin, will be confirmed either during or after the Budget speech at 12.30pm.
Mr Hunt’s move comes as part of a drive to encourage parents of young children back to work.
A study from Coram Family and Childcare found the average price of a childcare place for 25 hours a week is now £150.89 per week in England, with the high costs “freezing parents out of work”.
A separate survey from the National Day Nurseries Association, which was recently published, shows that 98.4 per cent of nurseries in England say their funding rates do not cover delivery costs.
How do I apply for free childcare?
You can apply from the moment your child is two years and 36 weeks old. Apply on the government website here.
The date that free childcare will start depends on when your child turns three. Check with your chosen childcare provider for the exact date.
The childcare must be with an approved provider, which includes:
• a childminder or nanny with a registered childminder agency or childcare agency
You must include your partner in your application if you are:
• married or in a civil partnership and live together
• not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are
If you and your partner are separated, you need to decide who should apply if you are jointly responsible for your child. If you cannot decide, both of you must apply separately and HMRC will decide who gets a childcare account.
Once your application has been approved, you will get a code for 30 hours free childcare to give to your childcare provider.
Today marks Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s first full Budget, with a number of changes expected that will affect your money. takes a look at the flashpoints we could see in the financial statement.
Follow our live-blog for every update, including the latest on plans to extend the energy price guarantee.
The budget is set to include a £4bn expansion of free childcare for one and two year-olds in England. Mr Hunt will make childcare central to his pitch to “break down the barriers that stop people working”
In an interview with , Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies said the UK is likely to see taxes rise to a record high over the next two years, which will stay high, he believes, for at least 30 years.