Families with children aged between three and four years old may be able to qualify for up to 30 hours of free childcare. This equates to 1,140 hours per year in total which can be taken in any way the parent sees fit. This perk is given via a code which will need to be passed on to a government approved childcare provider. The childcare will stop once the child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later). It should be noted that this specific scheme is for families based in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have different childcare schemes.
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The application needs to be done online and there are certain eligibility requirements. Eligibility depends on if the parent(s) are working, how much is being earned, the child’s circumstances and nationality.
This free childcare can be received at the same time as claiming universal credit, tax credits, childcare vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare.
This free childcare can be claimed if the parent(s) are in work, on sick or annual leave or on parental , maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
It may still be possible to be eligible if one of the partners is working and the claiming partner is receiving incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance, carer’s allowance or employment and support allowance.
Earnings wise, the claimant will need to expect to earn a certain amount over the following three months.
This is at least the national minimum wage or living wage for 16 hours a week on average. For example, a claimant over the following three months will be expected to earn at least £1,707.68, which is the national living wage for people over 25.
If the claimant has a partner, they will need to earn the same amount too. The rules are different for the self-employed and if either the claimant or their partner have an ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000 in the current tax year they will not be eligible. The claimants nationality will also be factored in.
If a claimant is from outside the EEA and their residence card details that they cannot access public funds, they will not be eligible.
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Applications for the free childcare can start from when the child is two years and 36 weeks old. The government encourage applications to be done early so there is time for processing. Eligibility will also need to be reconfirmed every three months.
It is currently not possible for both partners to have accounts for the same child. There are a number of options for what type of organisation provides the childcare.
It is possible to receive help paying for childcare if it comes from a:
- Registered childminder, nanny, playscheme, nursery or club
- Childminder or nanny with a registered childminder agency or childcare agency
- Registered school
- Home care worker working for a registered home care agency
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These are known as ‘approved childcare’ and it is possible to check if a childcare provider is approved through Ofsted.
It is possible to receive help for care payments for schools but there are separate rules for this.
The care in this circumstance must be outside of school hours, for example after school clubs or breakfast clubs. It is not possible to receive help paying for the child’s compulsory education or private lessons.
Receiving these 30 hours of free childcare could affect how much the claimant receives in tax credits but the government provide an interactive tool to work out if claiming it is worth it.
To start the application personal details will be needed as well as a partners details if there is one.
This will include. National Insurance number and a unique taxpayer reference if the claimant is self employed. The application process is done online and is relatively straightforward, taking roughly 20 minutes from start to finish.
It’s possible for claimants to find out straight away if they’re eligible but it can also take up to a week to find out. The application process is actually the most complicated part.
Once a code is given (which will be detailed in an online childcare account) it simply needs to be given to the childcare provider, along with the individual’s National Insurance number and the child’s date of birth.
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