30 Hours Funded Childcare

This page provides information on 30 Hours Funded childcare which became available in Buckinghamshire in September 2017. The 30 Hours scheme aims to help families with 3 or 4-year-olds to start back into work or to extend their working pattern. 

All 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of funded childcare a week. These changes increased the 15 hours to 30 hours per week in total for working families, for each of the 38 academic weeks of the year. Parents can choose to stretch the offer for fewer hours across more weeks (45, 47 or 51 hours). 

The changes were introduced as part of the Childcare Act 2016

Looking for a Provider?

Search our directory - search for a local 30 hours childcare provider 

If you have any questions please contact us via email: familyinfo@buckscc.gov.uk 

Overview Icon
  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. The Termly Deadlines to verify your code are:

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

 You must re-confirm your eligibility every three months.

Question Icon

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 31 days of applying) at least 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.

  • 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 free childcare to enable them to work.

You may also be eligible:

  • 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)


Understanding the childcare service: a guide for parents (eligibility and application)

Using your childcare account

One icon

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. 

two icon

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.
  • When your eligibility code has been validated, your chosen childcare provider will agree the date when the childcare will start.
  • Your child is admitted into the childcare 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 the first day of each term then you must apply and receive your 30 hours code by deadline dates (31 August, 31 December, and 31 March). See "Overview of the sign up process" at the top of this page.

If your child's third birthday is before the application deadline of:

You can take up 30 Hours from:

31 March

The Summer term (April)

31 August

The Autumn term (September)

31 December

The Spring term (January)

Remember: you will need to apply in good time of the application deadline.

Check Term dates and school holidays in Buckinghamshire

Question icon

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 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 on 0300 123 4097

FAQs icon

When did it begin?

In Buckinghamshire 30 hours funded childcare started from 1 September 2017. Some places in the UK have started this earlier. This is because they were part of a pilot scheme.

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 and you can contact them on: 0300 123 4097 

When should I apply?

You should apply and receive your 30 hours code by deadline date for the term you want to start using 30 hours:

  • 31 August        for the Autumn term (September to December)

  • 31 December   for the Spring term (January to March)

  • 31 March         for the Summer term (April to July)

See "Overview of the sign up process" at the top of this page.

We recommend applying (via the Childcare Service website - apply now) 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?

Yes. All three and four-year-olds, and the most disadvantaged two-year-olds, continue to be entitled to universal 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.

House or Home icon

Useful Documents/Resources 

Flowchart for Providing Funded Entitlement October 2018 (PDF, 304KB)

Understanding the childcare service: a guide for childcare providers


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.



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

To take up 30 Hours Funded Childcare, parents and carers must apply before the "Termly Deadline" and will usually receive their code straight away. The termly deadlines are:

  • 31 August (for a September take up)

  • 31 December (for a January take up)

  • 31 March (for an April take up)   

2. What if a parent/carer receives their code late?

Buckinghamshire County Council will fund the additional free hours for parents who applied or reconfirmed with HMRC by the termly deadlines (31 August, 31 December or 31 March) but do not receive their valid 30 hours eligibility code until after the beginning of the term. This applies only to the dates set out below:

  • Parent applied/reconfirmed by 31 August: code validity start date between 1 to the 14 September inclusive

  • Parent applied/reconfirmed by 31st December: code validity start date between 1 to the 14 January inclusive

  • Parent applied/reconfirmed by 31st March: code validity start date between 1 to the 14 April inclusive

Buckinghamshire County Council will not fund the additional free hours where the parent has applied after the termly deadlines (31 August, 31 December or 31 March).


3. 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


4. 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.


5. 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.


6. Could a parent access the Universal Funded 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 Funded Entitlement (15 Hours) over 38 weeks and use a different provider to access a stretched offer for the Extended Funded Entitlement (30 Hours) or vice versa.


7. 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.


8. 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.



September 2018: Extended Funded Entitlement open to eligible Foster carers (see the "30 Hours for foster carers" section).

September 2018: Clarity published on what happens if a parent receives their 30 code late (see question2 above).

September 2018: Buckinghamshire County Council's guidance on: Local Management of Funded Entitlement for 2,3 and 4-year-olds is updated.

June 2018: Early education and childcare: Statutory guidance for local authorities updated.

February 2018: Expected work eligibility increased from 14 to 31 days prior to starting work.


Related Information

Tax Free Childcare for providers

Early education and childcare: Statutory guidance for local authorities (March 2018)

Foster Carers Icon


30 Hours Funded Childcare is now available to foster carers providing the criteria below is met. The process is similar to the existing process for parents, however, applying and reconfirmation are done with social workers. If the eligibility for 30 Hours is not met, foster carers can still access the universal 15 hours entitlement.


Eligibility Criteria

Children in foster care will be able to receive 30 Hours Funded Childcare from September 2018, if the following criteria are met:

  • That accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan, placing the child at the centre of the process and decision making, and that;
In single parent foster families:
    • The foster carer engages in paid work outside their role as a foster carer (no set minimum hours or earning threshold).
In two-parent foster families:
    • Both partners engage in paid work outside their role as a foster carer (no set minimum hours or earning threshold).
In families where only one person is the approved foster carer:
    • That the approved foster carer engages in paid work outside their role as a foster carer

    • AND the partner (of the foster carer) is in qualifying paid work and earning a minimum of the equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum/national living wage. 


How to apply

The application must be made to Buckinghamshire County Council (The Local Authority) only if they are the corporate parent for the child, not the Local Authority where the foster carer wishes to access their provision.

The “corporate parent” is the term used for the Local Authority (for example Buckinghamshire County Council) who is responsible for looking after the child.

The application form will be completed by the foster carer in conjunction with their social worker and must be counter-signed by the corporate parent’s designated person. Foster carers will be required to reconfirm their eligibility every three months with their social worker to mirror the existing process and support the work enabling objective of the 30 hours policy. The agreement that the foster carers can take up the extended hours will be recorded and the care plan for the child will be updated as appropriate.

For an application form please contact your allocated social worker directly.


Application Stages

Stage 1: Foster parents apply

Foster parents and social workers start discussions as a normal part of reviews as the child approaches their third birthday or when a foster carer decides to work outside fostering responsibilities. Once it is agreed that it is appropriate, the foster carer completes an application form that your allocated social worker provides.

Stage 2: Responsible LA confirms eligibility

The responsible Local Authority (Buckinghamshire County Council) will set their own local process for checking eligibility criteria, which will be clear and made available to all foster carers. Local Authorities have the flexibility to determine who will be their designated person and any evidence requirements to fit existing local practice.

Stage 3: Responsible LA issues code

The responsible Local Authority (Buckinghamshire County Council) will create a record for the foster child which will generate a code and validity end dates. The Local Authority (Buckinghamshire County Council) sends an email/letter with the code to the foster carer.

Stage 4: Provider Checking and Payment

The foster carer takes the code to the provider, who will validate it using normal processes, record the child on headcount and census, receiving payment through the normal route.

Stage 5: Reconfirmation

Foster carers reconfirm their eligibility every three months with their social worker to mirror the existing process and support the work enabling objective of the 30 Hours policy. The agreement that the foster carers can take up the extended hours will be recorded and the care plan for the child will be updated as appropriate.

Visit Childcare works website where additional support materials such as FAQs, Foster Carer Customer Journey and the application form template are available. 


Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Why can’t foster carers apply through HMRC?

Before children in foster care access 30 hours, it is right that a check is made that this is in the best interest of the child and is consistent with their care plan. This check needs to be made through the process established by the corporate parent.

Does self-employment count?

Yes – In the case of self-employed foster carers, they will be expected to demonstrate to the responsible local authority that they are actively working but as they do not have to meet an income threshold, further details would not be needed.

The child in foster care has a disability, and the foster carer is a full-time carer for this child – are they eligible for 30 hours?

They would only be eligible if they have a partner who is working outside their fostering role and they were in receipt of carer’s allowance.

If a foster carer is in receipt of benefits could they still be eligible in these circumstances?

Qualifying benefits only apply in two carer households. So if one carer meets the employment criteria (in this case working outside their fostering role), the household may still be eligible if the other carer has declared they are in receipt of one of the benefits listed on the application form. As there is no requirement to meet an income threshold, any evidence provided by the carer should focus on demonstrating receipt of the benefit.

I’m a special guardian – can I apply for 30 hours?

As only children where the LA had corporate parental responsibility were excluded from the original regulations, special guardians have always been eligible for 30 hours. In special guardianships the LA is not the corporate parent and so, providing the guardians meet the requirements they can get 30 hours. The guardians should apply through HMRC and when asked relationship to the child, they should choose the guardian option.

Why do foster carers need to reconfirm their eligibility at all?

This is an extension of 30 hours to children in foster care, and therefore the reconfirmation process is still applicable. The only difference is that foster carers will need to demonstrate they are working outside their fostering role, and that accessing 30 hours is still consistent with the child’s care plan.

  • 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.