Increase in free early learning and childcare entitlement for working parents
All three and
four-year-olds are entitled to 570 hours, equivalent to 15 hours per week over 38 weeks, of government-funded childcare per
year; from September 2017, the Childcare Act 2016 increases this entitlement
for working parents by an additional 570 hours.
This means many families will be able to claim 1140 hours of free childcare per year, or 30 hours per term-time week for each of their three or four-year-olds. If the entitlement is also used outside of term time - across 50 weeks of the year - this works out to 22.8 hours per week.
These additional hours will support working parents who are struggling with childcare costs and who may be looking to increase their working hours. The hours are also flexible, depending on what would suit a family’s particular needs, meaning all, or some, of the free 30 hours a week can be used. Specific arrangements should be discussed with the childcare provider/school.
Do I qualify?
The additional free hours will be available to families where:
Both parents are in work (as defined below) and for single parent families, the sole parent is in work.
'In work’ means in employment (including self-employment) and earning more than the equivalent of the National Minimum Wage for working 16 hours a week.
Each parent must also earn less than £100,000 per year.
One parent must be 'in work' if the other receives disability benefit or benefits related to caring responsibilities.
It is also proposed that the additional hours should be made available to families in the following circumstances:
Both parents are employed but one, or both parents, are temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity leave.
Both parents are employed but one, or both parents, are temporarily away from the workplace on adoption leave.
Both parents are employed but one, or both parents, are temporarily away from the workplace on 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.
As with the existing 15 hours free entitlement for three and four-year olds, children will become eligible for the additional 15 hours at the start of the school term after their third birthday:
Age of child
As with the existing 15 hours entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds, children become eligible for the additional 15 hours at the start of the school term after their third birthday.
|1 April - 31 August
||1 September following the 3rd birthday|
|1 September - 31 December
||1 January following their 3rd birthday|
|1 January - 31 March
||1 April following their 3rd birthday|
If your circumstances change
If a family’s circumstances change and they are no longer eligible for the additional 15 hours of free childcare, a grace period will apply so that children can continue with their free place for a short period of time. If a parent’s circumstances change again during this period, they may reapply to HMRC and continue to receive the extra hours.
Choosing a childcare provider/school
Childcare providers/schools in Essex do not have to offer the additional hours, over and above the current 15 hours free entitlement for all three and four-year-olds.
As such, it may be possible to access the full 30 hours across more than one childcare provider/school and choose a different pattern of attendance depending on which provider is chosen.
Families should speak to their chosen provider(s) to find out whether they are planning to offer the additional hours.
How to apply
Families are also able to claim tax-free childcare alongside the extended entitlement hours and can apply for both schemes via the HMRC website.
Once a family has been confirmed as eligible, they will be given a unique code to present at their chosen childcare provider. Eligibility will need to be re-confirmed every three months in order to continue claiming through both schemes. You do this through the HMRC website using the log in you created when you first applied. If your details have not changed, you only need to tick a box in your childcare service account to confirm your details remain the same – this will then automatically be fed back through to local authority systems.
You should receive two reminders to reconfirm (four weeks and two weeks before your reconfirmation deadline). If you miss the reconfirmation deadline, despite the reminders, you will receive a message from HMRC telling you that you are no longer eligible for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare, however you will remain entitled until the end of your current grace period.
More information about the extended entitlement and other help available to support families with the cost of childcare, can be found at childcare choices. For help with completing your application, or any other queries, please contact HMRC on 0300 123 4097. If you have experienced any technical issues while applying, you may be able to claim Childcare Service compensation. Please note Essex County Council does not have access to the HMRC website and so will be unable to answer any queries.
For more information, see our frequently asked questions in the FEEE Guide for Parents now available in:
Early Years census and personal data
Each year, early years settings in the private, voluntary and independent sector who have children accessing the Free Early Education Entitlement for three and four-year-olds are required to complete an Early Years Census. This information is passed by each setting to Essex County Council, which provides it to the Department for Education.
What we need
We only collect basic personal data about you and your child which does not include any special types of information or location based information. This does, however, include name, address, date of birth and National Insurance number.
Why we need it
We need to know your basic personal data in order to share with the local authority and Department for Education who will access information from other government departments to confirm your child's eligibility for the extended free entitlement. we will only collect the personal data that we need in order to carry out these checks. We will not sell your personal information to anyone else.
What we do with it
We will do what we can to make sure we hold records about you (on paper and electronically) in a secure way. We will only make it available to those who have a right to see it. All personal information we receive is processed by our staff in the UK. However, for the purposes of IT hosting and maintenance this information is located on servers within the European Union. No third parties have access to your personal information, unless the law allows them to do so.
How long we keep it
We are required under UK tax law to keep your basic personal information (name, address and contact details) for a minimum of 6 years, after which time it will be destroyed.
What are your rights?
If, at any point, you believe that the information we hold on you is incorrect, you can request to see it, have it corrected or deleted. If you wish to raise a complaint on how we have handled your personal information, you can contact our Data Protection Officer who will investigate the matter.
If you are not satisfied with our response or believe we are not processing your personal information in accordance with the law, you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) by visiting www.ico.org.uk or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
View Essex County Council's privacy notice
Our Data Protection Officer can be contacted at DPO@essex.gov.uk or by calling 03457 430 430. Information on how the Department for Education holds and uses this data can be found at www.gov.uk