3 & 4 Year Old Universal 15 hours and 30 hours funding

30 Hours Childcare, Extended Entitlement -  Since September 2017 - The government has committed to doubling the amount of free childcare from 15 to 30 hours a week for working parents of three and four year olds.

Childcare Choices - Use this service to apply for Tax-Free Childcare or 3 and 4 year old extended free entitlement. It's one single application that will check your eligibility for both.  www.childcarechoices.gov.uk

Early education and childcare statutory guidance for local authorities ~ June 2018

Date information updated:- March 2022

Translated 3 & 4 Year Old Funding Leaflets
What is the Universal 15 hours funding entitlement?

All three- and four-year-old children are entitled to a funded place at 15 hours a week with a registered nursery, pre-school or childminder before they reach statutory school age.

This entitlement not only helps towards the cost of childcare, but it also enables children to start to learn and play with other children in a fun, safe and structured environment.

Am I eligible for the Universal 15 hours funding entitlement?

All 3 & 4 year old children become eligible to Universal 15 hours Funding from the start of the term following their third birthday.

A child born between 1 January and 31 March is entitled to claim from the start of the summer term

A child born between 1 April and 31 August is entitled to claim from the start of the autumn term

A child born between 1 September and 31 December is entitled to claim from the start of the spring term

Terms generally cover the following months

Summer - April - July, Autumn - September - December, Spring - January – March

How do I apply for the universal 15 hours entitlement?

Your child will need to be registered with an early years provider.

Your child’s nursery, pre-school or childminder will ask you to complete and return a parental agreement form which will be used to claim your child’s funding from Reading’s Early Years Team.

What is 30 hours funding (extended entitlement)?

From 1 September 2017, the Government extended the funded childcare entitlement for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds, to 30 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year (1,140 hours per year).

The 30 hours funding entitlement was introduced alongside a scheme to help working families with the cost of childcare called Tax Free Childcare.

An eligible child can receive 30 hours funding until they reach statutory school age or attend school in reception class.

Am I eligible for 30 hours funding?

You will be eligible for the 30-hour funding entitlement if:

  • You are a parent of a child who is three or four years old (and under compulsory school age)
  • Both parents are working (or the sole parent is working, in a lone parent family), this includes employed, self-employed and zero hours contract work
  • Each parent expects to earn, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW), and less than £100,000 per year.

For two parent families, children will also be entitled if:

  • both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave
  • both parents are employed but one or both parents are away from the workplace on statutory sick pay
  • one parent is employed and the other has substantial caring responsibilities (and receiving specific benefits for caring)
  • one parent is employed and the other is disabled or incapacitated (and receiving specific benefits)

You will not meet the criteria if:

  • You (or your partner) have a net income of more than £100,000
  • You (and your partner) are non-EEA national and subject to immigration control and the parent applying does not have recourse to public funds.

Use the following link to find out more - Will I qualify for 30 hours free childcare?


How do I apply for 30 hours funding?

Eligibility for the 30hours funding is determined by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

You’ll need your details (and your partner’s, if you have one), including your:

  • National Insurance number
  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed

If you pay for childcare and want to use Tax-Free Childcare to get help with costs, you can also apply using this service.

It usually takes 20 minutes to apply. You may find out if you’re eligible straight away, but it can take up to 7 days.

Please visit – www.childcarechoices.gov.uk – to apply for 30hours funding.

If you are eligible, you will be given an 11-digit code that you will need to take to your childcare provider along with your national insurance number and your child’s birth certificate. Your provider will ask you to complete a Reading Parental Agreement Form.

If you experience any problems with completing the application, please contact the Childcare Service Helpline on 0300 123 4097.

When should I apply for 30 hours funding?

You can apply from when your child is 2 years and 36 weeks old.


Child is born between

Start date of the 30 hours funding

Recommended time to apply

1 September to 31 December

1 January

15 October to 30 November

1 January to 31 March

1 April

15 January to 28 February

1 April to 31 August

1 September

15 June to 31 July

I am a Foster Parent, am I eligible for 30 hours funding and how do I apply?

Children in foster care may be entitled to 30 hours funding if the following criteria are met:

  • accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan; and
  • where there is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent; or
  • where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent. If one partner is not a foster parent, then they must be in qualifying paid work and earn a minimum of the equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum/national living wage

Completed 30 hours funding forms for foster children BFfC 30 Hours Foster Carers Application ~ June 2019 should be submitted to the foster child’s social worker. Eligible applicants will receive an eligibility code from the local authority to enable foster parents to verify eligibility to the childcare provider.

What happens if my circumstances change, will I lose eligibility?

If either parent starts earning less than the minimum income threshold or stops working altogether, you will be given a 'grace period' (this is set by the Government) to give you time to find a new job and start earning at least the minimum amount again.

The grace period is set so:

  • A child who becomes ineligible during the first half of a term should be funded until the end of that term (31 March, 31 August, 31 December) or for as long as they remain under Compulsory School Age, whichever is the shorter.
  • A child who becomes ineligible in the latter half of the term (up to the last day of the term) should be funded until the end of the following term or for as long as they remain under Compulsory School Age, whichever is the shorter.

If you do not meet the income threshold within the grace period, your child will stop being eligible for the 30 hours funding but will still be able to access the Universal 15 hours funding

What if I have remarried or have a new partner?

If you have remarried or are living with a new partner, you and your new partner must both meet the eligibility criteria to remain eligible.

What types of childcare providers offer the 30 hours funding?

It is the childcare providers' choice if they offer the 30 hour funded places. Parents should speak to their current provider or any provider they are thinking of using. Details of providers can be found on www.readingfis.org  

Childcare providers who opt not to provide the 30 hours funding may still offer the universal 15 hours for 3 & 4 year olds.

Do I have to use all my 30 hours funding each week?

No, you can use anything from 15-30 hours - it is up to you.

However, not all childcare providers may be able to offer the exact number of hours that you require. Providers can claim the 30 hours entitlement from their Local Authority using the following criteria (as of March 2017):

  • No sessions to be longer than 10 hours
  • No minimum session length (subject to the requirements of registration on the Ofsted Early Years Register)
  • Hours - not before 6.00am or after 8.00pm
  • A maximum of two sites in a single day

If your childcare provider cannot offer the exact number of hours that you require, you could split your 30 hours funding across more than one childcare provider.

The 30 hours funding entitlement should be flexible. The phrase '30 hours a week' is based on a childcare provider only being open for the 38 weeks during the year (term-time only). However, childcare providers have the option to offer the same total number of hours (1,140 per year) over more than 38 weeks.

For example, if a childcare provider is open 48 weeks of the year, then they could offer 23.75 funded hours per week all year round. Or if a provider is open 51 weeks of the year, then they could offer 22.25 funded hours per week all year round. This is known as a stretched offer.

However, not all childcare providers may be able to offer the stretched offer.

No childcare provider can offer more than 30 hours per week over fewer than 38 weeks.

If your child attends a childcare provider for more than the funded hours available in a claim period, you will be responsible for these fees. You should also check whether there are any other additional charges such as for meals and snacks.

Are there any additional costs I might have to pay for?

The 30 hours funded childcare offer is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables (such as nappies or sun cream), additional hours or additional activities (such as trips). Providers may charge a fee for these additions. If you choose to pay for these it is an arrangement between you and the childcare provider. However, you must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a 30 hours place, and must be offered alternative options.

When do I have to reconfirm my eligibility for 30 hours funding?

If you have applied and/or claimed 30 hours funding and/or Tax-Free Childcare, you must reconfirm your eligibility, this must be done even if your child hasn't started their 30 hours place. You must reconfirm your eligibility 3 months from the date you applied to receive the extra hours, this must be done every 3 months.

How do I reconfirm?

  1. You will get a text and/or email 4 weeks before your reconfirmation deadline. This will prompt you to log into your Childcare Service account.
  2. In the account you must go to 'secure messages'. You can access this section at any time. The section on reconfirmation will inform you of your reconfirmation date.
  3. You can reconfirm your eligibility up to 4 weeks before your reconfirmation date.

The reconfirmation process may differ for some parents. Such as if:

  • your circumstances haven't changed you will need to tick a box to confirm this. You will not receive a new code but the existing one will get extended for 3 more months
  • your circumstances have changed you must amend and resubmit your details
  • you completed your original application over the phone. You will need to phone the Customer Interaction Centre to reconfirm your eligibility on 0300 123 4097
  • you currently have a temporary code (these start with 11) you must complete a new application. You must do this through your childcare service account to get a permanent code


You need to check your details are up to date every 3 months - https://www.gov.uk/sign-in-childcare-account
Who do I contact for information & help?
  • If you are having problems completing the online application form, or have any queries in relation to the application process, please contact the Childcare Service Helpline - 0300 123 4097
  • If you would like to discuss the 30 hour funding entitlement in more detail then please contact the Family Information Service 0118 9373777 (option 2) or email fis@reading.gov.uk
How do I access my 30 hours funding account?

Parents who have applied for 30 hours funding and/ or Tax-Free Childcare through the childcare service but cannot recall how to access their account – and get their eligibility code, then please use the following link for guidance. 

How parents who’ve applied for 30 hours already can access their account

Related Advice

2 Year Old Education & Childcare Funding SEND - Family Finance Childcare Contracts and Complaints Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) Disability Access Fund (DAF) Tax-Free Childcare: Helping Working Parents Pay for Childcare Childcare Costs Early Years Inclusion Funding

Page last reviewed: 07/06/2022

Contact the Team

Family Information Service

fis@reading.gov.uk 0118 937 3777 OPTION 2 0118 937 3777 OPTION 2

SEND Local Offer

localoffer@reading.gov.uk 0118 937 3777 OPTION 2 0118 937 3777 OPTION 2

Adult & Carers Support

CSAAdvice.Signposting@reading.gov.uk 0118 937 3747 0118 937 3747
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