Eligibility criteria for 30 hours' free childcare

Eligibility criteria for 30 hours' free childcare

Find out if you are eligible to get 30 hours a week of free childcare.

Age criteria

  • Your child is eligible for 30 hours’ free childcare from the start of the term after their third birthday.
  • Terms starts on 1 January, 1 April or 1 September. For example, if your child turns three on 23 June, they are eligible from 1 September.
  • If your child was born after 1 September 2013 they qualify for 30 hours' free childcare from 1 September 2017.

Will I qualify for 30 hours free childcare?

In order to qualify, both parents must be working or the sole parent must be working in a lone parent family and the  following criteria applies:

      • You earn or expect to earn the equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum or living wage over the coming three months. This equates to: £120 a week (or c.£6,000 a year) for each parent over 25 years old; £112.80 a week (or c.£5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old and £56 a week for apprentices in their first year.
      • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on a zero hours contract.
      • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work.
      • Where one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or if they are on statutory sick leave.
      • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work.
      • Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (i.e. they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.
      • If one or both parents is a non-EEA national, the parent applying must have recourse to public funds.  

Upper earnings limit

You are not eligible if either parent earns more than £100,000.

If your income drops or you lose your job

  • If either parent starts earning less than the minimum income threshold or stops working altogether, you will be given a short grace period to give you time to find a new job and start earning at least the minimum amount again.
  • The grace period end date is determined when an eligibility code has been checked on the Eligibility Checking System. 
  • If you do not find a new job within the grace period, your child will stop being eligible to receive the 30 hours free childcare.

If you or your partner are on a zero-hour contract

Your child will still be eligible for the 30 hours’ free childcare if:

  • you work on average two weeks out of every three and
  • when you are working, you earn the equivalent of at least 25 hours at the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (depending on your age).

If you or your partner are self-employed

As long as you earn at least the minimum amount but less than the upper threshold of £100,000 each, your child will be eligible for the 30 hours of free childcare.

If you’ve just started a new job

If you expect to earn at least the minimum amount on average, over the next three months, your child will be eligible for the 30 hours of free childcare.

If you become eligible part way through a term

You can start claiming your 30 free hours as soon as is practical during that term, and no later than the start of the next term.

If you are living with a new partner or have remarried

You and your new partner must both be working in order for your child to be eligible.

Foster children

Foster carers cannot claim the 30 free hours for children they foster.

Adopted children

You can claim for your adopted child as long as you and your partner meet the eligibility criteria.