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
You can apply from when your child is:
- 1 year and 36 weeks for 15 hours free childcare
- 2 years and 36 weeks for 30 hours free childcare
|Your child’s birthday
|When they can get their hours from
|Recommended time to apply
|1 September to 31 December
|Term starting on or after 1 January
|15 October to 30 November
|1 January to 31 March
|Term starting on or after 1 April
|15 January to 28 February
|1 April to 31 August
|Term starting on or after 1 September
|15 June to 31 July
You can apply outside of these recommended dates but you might not receive your code in time. You must have a valid code by the end of the month before a new term starts.
Check with your childcare provider to find out the exact date your free childcare starts.
How you can use your free childcare
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.
- must be with an approved childcare provider
- stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later)
- for help finding an approved childcare provider, visit the Family Information Service directory
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.
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.