Don’t Miss Your Opportunity! Apply Now for 15 Hours of Free Childcare Before New Guidelines Kick in Next Week

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Time is running out for parents who are newly eligible for free childcare to apply for next term.

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Working parents of two-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare from April 1 – but the cut-off point for the summer term is typically March 31, although some councils will have different dates. Parents must earn a minimum of the equivalent of 16 hours a week at minimum wage, but less than £100,000 a year, to be eligible. This applies to both parents, if you’re in a couple, as well as single parents.

Under current rules, parents of three and four-year-olds can claim 15 hours a week free childcare as standard. Some working parents are entitled to 30 hours a week, so an additional 15 hours, depending on their earnings. Working parents of nine-month-olds will be eligible for 15 hours free childcare from September 2024, before this then expands to the full 30 hours a week from September 2025.

Free childcare hours are usually taken over 38 weeks (to cover term time) but you can normally spread it out to cover more weeks by using fewer hours a week. The free hours must be used with a registered childcare minder, such as some private nurseries or state-run pre-schools. There are separate free childcare systems in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Parents can get up to £500 every three months – or £2,000 a year – for each of your children through the tax-free childcare scheme. For disabled children, the maximum amount you could get rises to £4,000.

The tax-free childcare scheme allows parents to pay into an online account, and the Government will then add a certain amount on top. For every £8 you pay into your online account, you’ll get a free £2 added on by the government, up to the limits we mentioned above.

This money must then be spent on a registered childcare provider. You need to be earning at least the minimum wage, for the equivalent of 16 hours a week – the same goes for your partner if you have one. Self-employed workers are also eligible if they earn this amount too.

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