30 Hours Free Childcare (2017)

This page provides information on 30 hours childcare which commenced in Buckinghamshire in September 2017. The scheme aims to help families with 3 and/or 4 year olds to start back into work or to extend their working pattern. Currently all 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week. These changes extend the current 15 hours to 30 hours per week in total for working families. These changes were introduced as part of the Childcare Act 2016.

Overview of the sign up process

  1. Check your eligibility at ChildcareChoices.gov.uk

  2. Apply for 30 hours on the Childcare Service Webpage

  3. Enter your details and submit.

  4. If eligible, you will receive a sign up code.

  5. Take your sign up code to your chosen childcare provider as soon as possible so they can verify the code and confirm your childcare place.

  6. Deadlines to verify your code are:

    • 31 August 2017 (for a September 2017 take up)
    • 31 December 2017 (for a January 2018 take up)
    • 31 March 2018 (for an April 2018 take up)


  • Make sure you give your code to your chosen provider to confirm your childcare place.

  • Reconfirm your eligibility every three months by logging into your Childcare Service account.

  • If you are having trouble accessing the Childcare Services website and you are using an older internet browser such as Internet Explorer 8, you’ll need to update it or use a different browser. Find out more about browsers

  • If you haven’t already found a provider, search for those offering 30 hours on our website.

Looking for a Provider?

Search our directory which is being updated frequently by providers -  search for a local 30 hours childcare provider 

Note: This page will be updated as new information becomes available. If you have any questions please contact us via email: familyinfo@buckscc.gov.uk 

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Who will qualify?

You will be eligible if you are a parent of a child who is aged 3 or 4 and you earn (or expect to be earning within 14 days of applying) the equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum or Living Wage by the time you take up the additional 15 hours offer. This equates to £112.80 a week (or £5,800 a year) if you’re between 21 and 24 years old and £120 a week (or £6,000 a year) if you're over 25.

You may also be eligible if:

  • This applies whether you are in paid employment, self-employed or on zero hours contract.

  • The parent (and their partner where applicable) should be seeking the free childcare to enable them to work.

  • Where one or both parents are on maternity, paternity, shared parental or adoption leave, or if they are on statutory sick leave.

  • Where one parent meets the income criteria and the other is unable to work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or have been assessed as having limited capability to work.

  • Where a parent is in a ‘start-up period’ (example: they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.

Who will not qualify?

A parent will not meet the criteria when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000

  • Either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control (and has no recourse to public funds)

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To find out if you’re eligible for 30 hours, enter your details into the Childcare Choices website.

If you are eligible, you will need to apply for 30 hours childcare scheme via the Childcare Service webpage (see step 2 below).

The Childcare Choices website also allows you to:

  • check your eligibility for each of the childcare schemes
  • find out more about each scheme
  • sign up for a scheme or register for email alerts (if not available yet)
  • find out what you need to do next

The website allows you to select how much you earn, followed by whether or not you live with a partner. You will then be presented with your options highlighted in yellow (schemes you do not quality for will be greyed out). Under each available option you will see: “Is it for me?”. Selecting this will display further details and direct you to the relevant place such as online registration, calculators, email alerts, or GOV.UK pages. 

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Signing up to your Childcare Service account

Once you have visited the Childcare Choices website to check your eligibility (see Step 1 above) you will need to visit the Childcare Service Web page.

  • On the web page you will see 5 headings. Click “4. Apply or sign in to the childcare service as a parent”.
  • You will now see an explanation of the application process. Below this paragraph you should see a green button that says “Apply or sign in to your account”
  • You will be asked to set up a Government Gateway Account if you don't already have one.
  • You will then be asked questions about you and your partner, including your National Insurance Number and income.
  • At the end of the process you will have set up your Childcare Service Account.
  • If you are eligible to receive the 30 hours, you will be given an 11-digit 'eligibility code'. You can see this in your 'secure messages' section of the Childcare Service Account.

From your Childcare Service Account you can also:

    • access “secure messages”
    • view or update your details
    • access a Tax Free Childcare account
    • reconfirm your code (done every 3 months)
    • submit a new application
    • update your security details such as your password and security questions

Applying via the post

I form (HMRC)

This form is designed to be filled in on screen. You must answer all the questions except those marked 'optional'. You can’t save the form but once you’ve completed it you’ll be able to print a copy and post it


Once you have got your 30 hours code...

  • You take the eligibility code to your chosen childcare provider to 'book' a place. The code will be validated by the childcare provider before a place is offered to your child. Please note: it may take some time for childcare providers to validate your code as the electronic system enabling them to do so is still being set up.
  • Upon successfully validating the eligibility code, parent and childcare provider agree on a date when the provision will begin.
  • Your child is admitted into the provision for the length of the validity period.
  • You will receive notification to reconfirm your eligibility for 30 hours' before the validity end date. You confirm that your circumstances have not changed since the initial application or update the application if it has.

Tip: if you want your child to receive the 30 hours offer from September 2017, your code must be validated before 31 August 2017. 



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What happens if you lose eligibility?

  • You will receive a “grace period” – this means you will be able to keep your childcare for a short period of time

  • Once the “grace period” has lapsed, you should still be entitled to the universal 15 hour entitlement. If you have been taking up the extended entitlement at more than one provider, the local authority should continue to fund 15 hours at the provider of your choice. You should also check Childcare Choices (see step 1 above) to see if you have become eligible for a different scheme

What if I lose eligibility before September (2017)?

If you lose eligibility before September you will be permitted to take up the additional 15 hours for the autumn term only and funding will be provided by the Department of Education (DoE) to cover the cost of this commitment. This approach will not be repeated for subsequent terms as it is intended to provide certainty for providers for this first term.


What If you’re not eligible (in the first place)?

If you have checked your eligibility (see Step 1 above) and you are not eligible for 30 hours' then:

  • you should still be entitled to take up your child’s universal entitlement to 15 free hours, provided you have not exceeded the number of hours of entitlement

  • you may be eligible for another scheme; Childcare Choices will show you your eligibility for other schemes


Appealing a decision

An appeals process is available to those who disagree with the eligibility decision they receive. The review and appeals process is managed by HM Revenues and Customs:

HMRC Customer Centre

Telephone: 0300 123 4097

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When will it begin?

In Buckinghamshire 30 hours will start from September 2017. Some places in the UK have started this earlier. This is because they are part of a pilot scheme.

But I’ve heard other areas already have 30 hours funding...

Some places in the UK have started this earlier. This is because they are part of a pilot scheme. Only 5,000 children in England are partaking to help the government understand how 30 hours will work nationally. 30 hours funding will be available in Buckinghamshire from September 2017.


How can I find out if I'm eligible for 30 hours?

By visiting the Childcare Choices website, a single point of information for all the government funded childcare offers (see Step 1 above).

Am I guaranteed a childcare place with a provider if I am eligible?

Entitlement to a free place, whether 15 hours or 30 hours, does not offer a guarantee of a place at any one provider or a particular pattern of provision.

Do I have to take up the full 30 hours?

No, parents eligible for the 30 hours can take up any amount of childcare up to a maximum of 30 hours.

Can I appeal if I disagree with an eligibility decision?

Yes. An appeals process is available to those who disagree with the eligibility decision they receive. The review and appeals process is managed by HM Revenues and Customs:

HMRC Customer Centre, Telephone: 0300 123 4097


When should I apply?

If you want to take up 30 hours from September 2017, then apply (via the Childcare Service website - apply now) by 31 August 2017. If you don’t manage to register by then or your child is not quite 3, then your next deadlines to apply are:

  • 31 March 2018 (for an April 2018 take up)

We recommend applying as soon as you can to overcome any obstacles that might arise, such as your preferred provider not offering the full 30 hours of care or not having any spare places available.


How many weeks of the year is 30 hours available for?

Working families are entitled to 30 hours in each of the 38 weeks of the academic year. Parents can choose to stretch this offer to 45, 47, or 51 weeks of the year to meet their childcare needs. This means you take up less hours each week but take advantage of (stretch) the offer over more weeks of the year.

Will the 15 hour entitlements continue?

All three and four year olds, and the most disadvantaged two-year olds, continue to be entitled to 15 hours early education a week.


Who can offer 30 hours?

Day-nurseries, childminders and playgroups that are registered on the Early Years Register. Childminders registered with an Ofsted-registered Childminder Agency can offer the 30 hours entitlement in full, or work in partnership with other providers to offer it.  Schools can also offer 30 hours. Parents will be able to split their entitlement across more than one provider. Show me local 30 hours providers.

Do providers have to offer 30 hours?

No. It is a provider’s choice whether they offer the 30 hours entitlement or not. They can choose to offer some or all of the hours. Parents are free to shop around to find appropriate funded provision. Search for local 30 hours providers here.

What if childcare providers do not offer 30 hours'?

You can look for other providers, even those outside of Buckinghamshire. If a provider can’t offer the full 30 hours’ then they may work in partnership with other providers to split the hours. Each provider should have an admissions policy which will state which parents or children receive priority.


Is the offer term time only?

Some providers already offer childcare 51 weeks of the year. More might consider this option so that parents can find childcare that meets their needs. If the funded offer is spread across 51 weeks instead of 38 weeks term time only, then it would equate to an estimate of 22 hours per week.


What if I am temporarily sick or on maternity?

Eligibility will continue should a parent be away from work temporarily (sick or maternity). Families where one parent is working and the other has a disability or substantial caring responsibilities should also be eligible.


Will my unfamiliar working pattern put me at a disadvantage?

Providers are being encouraged to be flexible and explore ways in which they can meet the needs of their families. This could be easier for some providers than others depending on their location and facilities. Discuss your working patterns with your local providers to see which can accommodate you favourably. You could also use more than one provider and split the funding. (You would have to make sure that they are aware of this if you choose to do so).


What if I'm self employed?

If you are in a ‘start-up period’ (newly self-employed for example,) you do not need to demonstrate that you meet the income criteria for 12 months.


Will I have to pay for extras such as meals?

Providers are able to charge parents for meals, nappies and discretionary items such as trips and additional teaching such as learning a musical instrument. However, these charges are voluntary and at the discretion of the parent and therefore cannot be a condition of accessing any free entitlement place. Providers should provide the free entitlements consistently to all children accessing any of the free entitlements, regardless of whether they opt to pay for optional hours, services, meals or consumables.


I signed up but have forgotten my eligibility code

Sign in to the Childcare Service Tax Support Service website Click on option 4 "Apply or sign in to the childcare service as a parent". Click the green button and answer some questions about your child's age, then sign in using the Government Gateway ID that you received when you applied.  Once you are signed in, click on '30 Hours Childcare' and you will find your eligibility code, usually starting with '500...'. You can also find the code in your 'secure messages' section.  If you have problems logging in please contact HMRC on 0300 123 4097.

A small number of parents may have a temporary code, starting “11…” This would have been given over the phone and will have been sent to you in a letter from HMRC.


Got more questions?

The “30 Hours - Frequently Asked Questions” produced by the Department of Education has many more questions and answers, including what additional financial support is available for providers to support access for children with special educational needs.

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How does funding work for providers of childcare?

It is expected that 30 hours' will be a part of the current funding process and Buckinghamshire County Council will fund providers of childcare directly. This process should steadily improve to accommodate the changes that are being made.


Eligibility Checking Periods

When a parent first applies to HMRC the validity period is unlikely to be exactly 3 months long, this could be because:

  • The system will randomly set a ‘Validity End Date’ between the 07 and 22 of the month

  • Parents currently on childcare vouchers (who agree to come off them) will get an extra month

  • There are also some exceptional circumstances that can extend and shorten the initial validity period. For example, siblings will have their ‘Validity End Dates’ aligned to allow a single validity period for all children

When a parent reconfirms their eligibility via the HMRC Childcare Service, the extension to the validity period will be exactly three months long.



When does a parent need to obtain their 30 hours code?

If a parent wishes to take up the Extended Free Entitlement, they must have checked their eligibility before the start of the funding period for example by 31 December deadline for the Spring term (January to March).

How many times a year will a provider have to verify the parent's eligibility code?

This only needs to be verified by the Provider once, when the parent initially comes into the setting and presents the code. After this, it is the parents’ responsibility to re-validate their code with HMRC when they are asked via an email or text from HMRC

How will a provider know if a parent falls out of eligibility?

Buckinghamshire County Council will run 6 checks a year on all children claiming the Extended Free Entitlement and will notify the relevant provider of any child falling out of eligibility and the date their subsequent grace period will end.

Do I have to be able to offer the full 30 hours of the Extended Free Entitlement to parents? I am not able to have access to the premises I rent for longer than 24 hours per week.

You can still offer the Extended Free Entitlement to parents, as they will be able to use any residual hours each week with another provider, such as a childminder, if they wish.

Could a parent access the Universal Free Entitlement for 38 weeks and the Extended Free Entitlement as a stretched offer with the same provider?

No, a parent can only take up one offer at a time with a single provider, but could access the Universal Free Entitlement over 38 weeks and use a different provider to access a stretched offer for the Extended Free Entitlement, or vice versa.

Can a Provider designate a given number of places as “stand alone” fully funded places and additionally designate a different number of places where funded hours can be accessed where additional childcare is purchased?

Providers can set their own admissions policy according to their business needs as long as it is clear to parents how they may access a fully funded place for either the Universal or the Extended Free Entitlement. The Free Entitlement should be as flexible as possible for working parents, but it must also be financially viable for each setting. The admissions policy must also make it clear to parents who takes priority to places as and when they become available.

If a parent is splitting their Extended Free Entitlement across two providers, can a provider insist on a parent using their setting for the Universal Free Entitlement?

No. It is the parent who decides which provider they are using to access their Universal hours and their Extended hours – a provider is not allowed to try and influence this decision.

Got more questions?

See More FAQs



Update: 20 July 2017

Instructions for parents to receive their 30 hours code added, see step two above.

Update: 1 June 2017

Childcare Choice Providers Information has now launched allowing parents to check their eligibility and apply for 30 Hours'. As a provider, you can also find out more about the provisions, including how to sign up for both 30 Hour's and Tax Free Childcare, via the Childcare Choices website.

Update: 19 April 2017

The DfE have advised that the 30 hours eligibility checker for parents on the website Childcare Choices will go live on Friday 28 April 2017. This will allow parents to check their eligibility for the 30 hours offer but currently there is no facility for Local Authorities to verify eligibility codes. HMRC will start to release some temporary eligibility codes, prefixed with the number 11, as some applications will require manual intervention by HMRC. HMRC have advised that providers can verify these codes as usual, once the systems are in place to do so, however they will only need to be verified once as they will be replaced by a permanent code at their next reconfirmation. Buckinghamshire, along with other Local Authorities, are working with software providers to bring a solution for providers to verify eligibility codes provided by parents and, as soon as this is available, providers will be advised.


Related Information

Tax Free Childcare (for providers)
Read our information on Tax Free Childcare for providers
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We have included here some useful links that you may want to take a look at:


Contact us

Contact HMRC

For 30 Hours' enquiries/appeals: 0300 123 4097