Many working parents of 3 to 4 year olds in England will be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare – rather than the current 15 hours from September 2017.
But the first thing you need to know is that this is 30 hours free for only 38 weeks per year – not 52 weeks of the year. It’s basically equivalent to school term times so fits in perfectly with Ghyll Royd Pre-School and Nursery. Not everyone is eligible. But everyone will still receive the 15 hours free childcare that is currently available.
Eligibility rules for 30 hours free childcare:
- Your child will be aged 3 or 4 when the scheme starts in your area
- Both parents must be working – or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family
- Each parent earns, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage
- Each parent must have an annual income of less than £100,000
- You live in England
How much is the equivalent of 16 hours at National Minimum Wage?
It depends on your age. For this scheme, the minimum amount will always reflect the lowest hourly rate that a person of your age can legally be paid. Therefore, currently for a parent aged 21-24, you’d need to earn a weekly average of at least £111.20. For a parent aged 25+, you’d need to earn a weekly average of at least £115.20.
What if one parent in a couple isn’t working?
This is basically a scheme to help working parents, so families where one parent doesn’t work, or both parents don’t work, will usually not be eligible for these additional 15 hours.
However, if one parent isn’t working because they’re an official carer (eg receiving benefits relating to being a carer) or they are receiving disability benefits, and the other parent is working, then the Government has stated it “intends to make provision” to support these families.
There is also additional entitlement if the parent normally works but is temporarily away from the workplace, for example on statutory sick pay.
What if you are self-employed or on a zero hours contract?
You will be eligible if you (or both of you in a couple) earn at least the equivalent of 16 hours at the National Minimum Wage.
What if one parent loses their job?
There will be a short “grace period” – although this hasn’t yet been defined – allowing parents to have a chance to find new employment.
How do you apply for the 30 hours free childcare?
You’ll be able to apply for both the 30-hour scheme and the Tax-Free Childcare scheme through a joint online application being developed by HMRC. This is because the eligibility requirements for both schemes are aligned.
You probably know everything about the current childcare entitlement but just in case…
Currently, 3 and 4 year old children are eligible for 570 hours of childcare a year – which is usually broken down to 15 hours each week over 38 weeks of the year . This covers:
- Nurseries and nursery classes
- Playgroups and pre-school
- Sure Start Children’s Centres
Depending on income levels, some 2 year olds in England can get free early education and childcare. In order to get claim, you must be getting one of the following:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
- Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit and have an annual income under £16,190
- The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
- Universal Credit
In the news 22.03.2017 : the government has today published eligibility criteria for parents interested in the 30 hour offer, as well as their new website ‘Childcare Choices’ which aims to help parents understand what support is available for their childcare needs, including information on Tax Free Childcare and the 30 hour offer.
You can view the eligibility information for the 30 hours here: https://www.gov.uk/…/30_hours_free_childcare_eligibility.pdf
And the childcare choices website is here: https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/
There is a handy flyer by Bradford Council to find out if you’re eligible:
Speaking about the launch of Tax Free Childcare, and the new childcare choices website, Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch said:
“While any help for families struggling with the cost of childcare is to be welcomed, we remain concerned that the tax-free childcare scheme will be of limited help to those most in need.
Not only it is a regressive initiative – the more money you can afford to save, the more help you get from government – but it also fails to address the root cause of rising childcare costs: insufficient funding.
The government continues to claim that tax-free childcare and the 30-hour offer will save parents in England thousands of pounds each year, but without adequate investment into the early years sector, what we are actually likely to see is a rise in childcare fees as some providers look for ways to plug the growing funding gap, and a loss in places as others opt out of the free entitlement due to insufficient funding.
If the government is going to keep the promise that it made to parents in its manifesto, it simply must invest what’s needed to ensure that these childcare policies can succeed in the long term.”