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30 Hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

The government introduced 30 hours free childcare for parents of children who meet certain criteria. Find out if you are eligible and what to do next.

Who is eligible?

A parent or family will be eligible if one or more of the following applies:

  • Both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family) and each parent earns on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national living wage and less than £100,000 per year. Working will include self-employed people.
  • Parents do not necessarily need to actually work 16 hours a week, but rather their earnings must reflect at least 16 hours of work at the national living wage. This includes parents on zero hour contracts who meet the criteria.
  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity, paternity leave, adoption leave or statutory sick pay.
  • One parent is employed and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring or one parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits.

How to check if I am eligible?

You can check if you are eligible by using the childcare calculator on the Childcare Choices website (external link).

Parents who need help with applying can call Childcare Choices on 0300 123 4097 and apply over the phone. Parents that complete their original application over the phone will need to phone the centre back to reconfirm their eligibility.

Please note: this telephone service is provided by the government and not Rochdale Borough Council. We are unable to access this service for you or on your behalf.

Your child can start their childcare place the term after they turn three years old and have received a valid 30 hours code, whichever is later. Term start dates are from 1 September, 1 January and 1 April.

Foster carers

Children in foster care who are aged 3 or 4 years old will be able to receive 30 hours free childcare, if the following criteria are met:

  • Accessing the extending hours is consistent with the child's care plan and;
  • Where there is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent or;
  • Where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent.

Foster carers will need to complete a separate application form with their supervising social worker to enable an eligibility check to be undertaken. If you are fostering a child from outside of Rochdale (for example, Oldham) you should contact the supervising social worker from that authority and apply through them.

If an eligible child then attends a Rochdale childcare setting, Rochdale will pay for that child's place. If you are eligible (this is determined by government not Rochdale council) you will be given a unique code which you can take to a provider of your choice as proof of eligibility. The application form for foster carers is available in the "Downloads" section.

What happens next?

1) Parents will be informed of their eligibility outcome instantly after using the childcare choices website. Foster parents will be advised if they are eligible by the supervising social worker from the relevant local authority.

2) Eligible parents will receive a voucher code they should supply to a provider as proof of eligibility. This will be validated by the provider and local authority prior to placement beginning.

3) Parents will be prompted by the Childcare Choices service every three months to confirm the details they entered on their application are still accurate. This is to check continued eligibility. Please note: This is a government service and is not a service provided by Rochdale Borough Council.

4) Parents will be prompted by text message or email four weeks before the deadline. You can also check the reconfirmation dates by logging in to the Rochdale Parent Portal.

What do I need to do if I am eligible?

1) You should speak with you chosen provider and ask them if you will be offered 30 hours of free childcare per week and how this will work. If you are using the Parent Portal you can pass your details to a provider of your choice directly.

2) If your chosen provider is not planning to offer 30 hours free childcare, you may wish to consider alternative providers who may be able to meet your needs.

3) You will only be required to pay anything in addition to 30 hours per week.

4) If you have been offered a place you will be required to provide the following information to your childcare provider:

  • Your child's birth certificate
  • Your national insurance number
  • Your 30 hour eligibility code

5) The provider will verify your eligibility code, ask you to complete a parental declaration and agree a start date for your child to begin accessing 30 hours free childcare.

How can I use the free hours?

The government intended the 30 hours of free childcare per week should be accessed by parents and carers flexibly.

By flexible, they mean you should be able to access your hours over any pattern of days, hours or weeks. This is within certain limitations and to a maximum equivalent of 30 hours per week subject to your chosen provider's ability to meet your needs. You can split your hours over more than one, but no more than two providers.

Does free mean free?

Eligible children are entitled to free childcare. If you are eligible, you would be entitled to a maximum of 15 or 30 free childcare hours per week. These hours must be 'free at the point of delivery', which means you cannot be charged registration or membership fees or have other conditions applied.

If you access more than the free 15 or 30 hours per week, you would be liable for additional fees and charges as agreed with your chosen provider. If you do access additional hours please be aware additional terms and conditions may be applied by your provider in relation to these paid for hours.

Please ensure you are clear what you are being charged for and ask this information be clearly shown on any weekly or monthly bill.

Potential additional costs

The following shows an example of where you may incur additional costs as part of your chosen provider's conditions:

Some providers may not offer the facility to bring a packed lunch. These providers may insist you buy a prepared lunch from them at an extra cost. It is your decision whether you will agree to this.

Please remember a charge for a lunch of £2 per day can amount to £40 on any monthly bill if your child attends 5 days a week. If you agree to this condition you are agreeing to pay this amount.

Some providers also apply extra charges for items such as mid-morning or afternoon snacks, sun cream or nappies if you do not supply your own. Any charges of this type should be clearly explained to you before you begin your place.

Who to contact

Contact Name
Early Years Funding Team
01706 927823

Last Updated: 08/04/2022
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