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Current Guidelines for Free Nursery Places

There will be a change in the rules surrounding free nursery places in September, 2017.

Here we set out both the current and the future guidelines. If you have any questions, please do get in touch.

Free childcare and education for 2 to 4-year-olds (Current rules)

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.

Some 2-year-olds are also eligible (see below)

From September 2017, you may be able to get 30 hours a week of free early education and childcare (see below).

When you can start claiming

The date you can start claiming depends on your child’s birthday.

Child’s birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March The beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August The beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December The beginning of term on or after 1 January

ExampleYour child was born on 15 February 2013. You can get free childcare when the next term starts after 1 April 2016.

Eligibility

The free early education and childcare must be with an approved childcare provider (The Cherry Tree Montessori Nursery, East Dulwich, is an approved childcare provider).

It stops once your child starts reception class in a state school.

Eligibility for 2-year-olds

Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you get one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit
  • tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:

  • they’re looked after by a local council
  • they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

Get more information about free childcare

You can get more information about free early education and childcare from your local council.

Free childcare and education for 2 to 4-year-olds (from September)

Will I qualify for 30 hours free childcare?

Parents of three and four year olds will need to meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for 30 hours free childcare:

  • They 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 or £112.80 a week (or c.£5,800 a year) for each parent between 21 and 24 years old.
  • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on 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 a non-EEA national, the parent must have recourse to public funds.

Who will not qualify?

A parent will not meet the criteria when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000
  • Either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control (and has no recourse to public funds)What happens if a parent loses eligibility?

They will receive a “grace period” – this means they will be able to keep their childcare for a short period.

Once the “grace period” has lapsed, the parent may be entitled to the universal 15 hour entitlement.