Free early education for eligible working families

Information about funded childcare for eligible working families from 9 months - 4 years

Please note: This new offer differs from the existing 2-year-old funding for families receiving additional government support. 

If you live in England, you must apply for a code to get free childcare via GOV.UK.

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

If you are applying for free childcare and someone else already claims Tax-Free Childcare for that child, your application will be unsuccessful.

This service is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

When to apply

We recommend you contact your chosen provider as early as possible to secure your place.

You can take up your free hours from the term after you meet all the eligibility criteria for the entitlement you are applying for. These terms begin on the first of January, April and September.

Apply for free childcare before the deadline, which falls the day before the new term starts. We advise applying early, six weeks ahead of the deadline. Some providers might request codes in advance; consult yours to see if this applies.

Application deadlines
When you would like to use your entitlements from  The deadline to apply for a code 
1 January  31 December 
1 April  31 March 
1 September  31 August 

If you do not apply by the deadline, you cannot take up your entitlements in that term.

How you can use your free childcare

If your child is aged 9-23 months, you may be able to get 15 hours free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time) from September 2024. Applications open on the 12 May 2024

If your child is 2 years old, you may be able to get 15 hours free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time). 

If your child is 3 to 4 years old, you may be able to get 30 hours free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time). 

You may be able to get free childcare for 52 weeks if you use less than your entitlement per week. Check with your childcare provider to find out if they offer this.

The childcare:

You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.

What you need to apply

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

You’ll also need:

  • the UK birth certificate reference number (if you have one) of any children you’re applying for
  • the date you started or are due to start work (this can be approximate if more than three months ago)

If you're a director

You'll need to show you meet the minimum income requirements to be eligible. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will try to check this using your PAYE records.

If you do not submit regular PAYE information, you may have to provide evidence to show you are working and expect to meet the minimum income requirements for the next 3 months. This could be:

  • wage slips
  • bank statements
  • a statement from your accountant
  • copies of invoices

If you're not paid regularly (for example, once a year), you may need to send other evidence to show you'll meet the minimum income requirements, such as:

  • annual wage slips
  • year-end payroll
  • a letter from your tax agent or adviser confirming your salary has been paid and taxed

You’ll need to do this the first time you apply, and every time you reconfirm your eligibility.

If you have a partner

You must include your partner in your application if you are:

  • married or in a civil partnership and live together
  • not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are

Their employment and income will not affect your eligibility if they:

  • are or will be absent from your household for more than 6 months
  • are a prisoner

You and your partner cannot both have accounts for the same child.

If you are separated

You and your ex-partner must decide who to apply if you are jointly responsible for your child.

If you cannot decide, both of you must apply separately and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will decide who gets a childcare account.

Apply for a code via GOV.UK

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.

Once your application has been approved, you'll get a code for free childcare to give to your childcare provider.

Apply now

What you need to know

You have to reconfirm your eligibility every three months. If you apply more than three months before the term starts, you'll have to reconfirm your account eligibility to keep your code valid.

If you have any issues with your application, please contact Childcare Choices on 0300 123 4097 (Childcare Service Helpline). The local authority does not process these applications.