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Extended free childcare entitlement

Children of eligible working parents can access up to 15 hours of free childcare alongside their universal entitlement of 15 hours per week. Using both the universal and extended entitlements you could get up to 30 hours a week of free early learning and childcare in a participating day nursery, pre-school, school nursery or with a childminder (please note that not all settings provide the free entitlements).

Further information is available the following sections:

Is my child eligible?

A child is entitled to the additional 15 hours of free childcare from the term following their third birthday (see dates below) and up to compulsory school age (or where they enter a maintained Reception class) where the child's parent(s) meets the eligibility criteria set out below:

  • the parent of the child (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work;
  • the parent of the child (and their partner where applicable) should also be in qualifying paid work. Each parent (or the single parent in a lone parent household) will need to expect to earn the equivalent of 16 hours at the national living wage or their national minimum wage rate per week;
  • where one or both parents are in receipt of benefits in connection with sickness or parenting, they are treated as though they are in paid work;
  • where one parent (in a couple household) is in receipt or could be entitled to be in receipt of specified benefits related to caring, incapacity for work or limited capability for work that they are treated as though they are in paid work;
  • where a parent is in a 'start-up period' (i.e. they are newly self-empoloyed) they do not need to demostrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months in order to qualify for the extended entitlement;
  • the parent of the child (and their partner where applicable) must not have an income exceeding £100,000 (each).

The following dates show which term your child will be eligible for Free Childcare. 

 

A child born on or between …

Will become eligible for a free place from …

1 April and 31 August

1 September following their 3rd birthday

1 September and 31 December

1 January following their 3rd birthday

1 January and 31 March

1 April following their 3rd birthday

 

Please note that children will be unable to access the extended free childcare entitlement if they are taking up a full-time place in a state-funded school reception class or an independent school reception class.

How do I apply?

If you believe you meet the eligibility criteria above you can apply for your child’s free early learning place on the national government website - www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.  You will need to provide a variety of information including your National Insurance number and you and your child's details on the system.

If you are eligible you will be provided with a 30 hours code. You will need to provide this to your chosen provider at the earliest opportunity.

You must apply and be identified as eligible the term before you wish to access a 30 hours place. The table below shows when you will be able to access a place:

A validity start date…

Will become eligible for the extended hours from …

1 April and 31 August

1 September following their 3rd birthday

1 September and 31 December

1 January following their 3rd birthday

1 January and 31 March

1 April following their 3rd birthday

 

In addition you will be expected to re-confirm your 30 hours code every three months through your Childcare Service Account. Failure to do so may result in either not being able to access your child's new 30 hours place or your child's 30 hours place being withdrawn.

The provider will ask you to complete a Parent Declaration Form which will confirm that your child will be attending the setting. This will need to be completed before your child accesses their place and will need to be updated by every year.

The form will confirm the number of free early education hours are being offered each term. This information must be provided on the form before you are asked to sign - if it isn't please ask the provider to confirm these details first.

 

Finding a free childcare provider

You can find a full list of participating childcare settings here. If you would like further support in finding a suitable provider please contact FiND.

It is important to ensure that what your chosen provider can offer is right for you and your child. You should discuss your requirements with the provider prior to coming to an agreement.

What your child’s place will offer

The extended entitlement place will provide up to an additional 15 hours a week of free childcare in addition to the 15 hours your child is accessing through the free early learning places for three and four year olds.

It is usually either offered as a term time only place of 38 weeks per year (15 hours per week), or as a stretched offer over 51 weeks (up to 11.17 hours per week).

Different settings will provide the early years places in different ways, however sessions must meet the following conditions:

  • No session is longer than 10 hours
  • Early learning must take place between 6.00am and 8.00pm
  • Funding may be taken across no more than three settings and at a maximum of two premises in a single day

Whether you wish to access just the free early learning place or if you choose to access additional hours or services, the provider’s offer to you should always be clear and transparent. Where you are accessing any unfunded hours or additional services you should ensure this is clearly explained by your provider and a contract is put in place that clearly states the agreement. You should ask to see this before committing to a childcare place. If you are in any doubt, ask questions before agreeing to a place.

Accessing the free childcare place at more than one setting

You are able to claim your free early learning and childcare place at up to three different settings, as long as they are not based on more than two premises. For example, your child could access a breakfast club and nursery class at a school, followed by a childminder. Where you are accessing a place at more than one setting please ensure that you are clear with all settings how many hours of free early learning that they are each offering your child.

Where your child is attending more than one setting you will need to ensure that the settings include this information on your Parent Declaration Form.

You must also make clear to all settings where you wish to claim their 15 hours of free early education, and who should be claiming the 15 hours of free childcare. Please also remember that not all settings offer the extended entitlement so you must check that they can offer this to you before signing up to a place.

Moving your child to a new setting

Children can move their free early education place from one setting to another during certain times of the year. If you intend to move your child, then you will need to consider the following:

  • The funding cannot be moved from one setting to another towards the end of a term. You can check the cut-off date with your Redbridge setting
  • You should give the setting that your child is leaving as much notice as possible
  • If you access additional paid hours and services then you will need to ensure that you are meeting any contractual notice periods
  • You should inform the new provider that your child was previously attending another setting

If you have missed the deadline for moving your child, please discuss this with the early years setting at the earliest opportunity. You will likely need to pay for the remainder of the term or alternatively wait until the following term to access a free early learning place.

Will I have to pay anything?

The offer of a free early education and childcare place must be offered ‘free at the point of delivery’. This means that if your child is only receiving the free hours without any additional paid hours or services then you will not be expected to make any payment to the provider to access your child’s place.

The free early learning place also only covers the cost of your chlid’s care and early learning. If you are only accessing the free early learning place then you can choose to provide a packed lunch which would not incur an additional cost, or pay the additional fee for any meals and/or snacks provided by the setting.

If you wish to access any additional hours outside of the funded place, then you will have the option to pay for additional hours. Where your child accesses additional services (such as meals, nappies and other consumables) your provider is entitled to charge for these services.

All childcare providers should have a clear and concise charging policy so that there is no misunderstanding of any costs. The arrangements for payment are a private matter between providers and parents.

If you are asked to pay for your child’s free early education and childcare place in advance, or if you have any concerns about how your child’s funded place has been calculated you can contact FiND for further advice. Please see the section ‘Further advice and support’ below.

What happens if I stop being eligible?

If you have not yet accessed the extended entitlement for your child and your most recent 30 hours check has expired or confirms that you are no longer eligible, then unfortunately you will be unable to access the extended entitlement.

For children who have already accessed their extended entitlement place, those that are no longer eligible will be given a ‘grace period’. Your child’s childcare setting will be informed that you are no longer eligible and will be advised when your child must stop accessing their extended entitlement place. This provides parents and carers with a short notice period to either become eligible again or to make alternative arrangements (such as the child leaving their place or arranging for the place to be paid for privately).  

What happens if I forget to re-confirm my code?

If your child has not yet accessed a place and you have missed the termly deadline, then you would be unable to access the extended entitlement and would need to ensure you have a valid code if you wished to access the entitlement for the following term.

If your child is already accessing a free childcare place you should re-confirm your code at the earliest opportunity, or complete a new application if required. If you fail to re-confirm or re-apply then your child will cease to be eligible for the extended entitlement following the grace period.

Your child will however continue to be able to access the universal 15 hours of free early education.

Further advice and support

For further information and support please contact Families Information Direct (FiND).

Complaints process

Please contact FiND in the first instance. If FiND are unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion to your query and you wish to register a complaint (either regarding a dispute associated with your child's Free Early Education Entitlement place within a setting or the policies mentioned in this guidance) this should be raised in accordance with the Redbridge complaints policy. Full details of the London Borough of Redbridge Complaints Procedure can be viewed on www.redbridge.gov.uk/complaints

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