Children and families

Free childcare for working parents of children aged 2 and under

From April 2024, free childcare is being expanded for working families of younger children so they can access 15 hours per week, increasing to 30 hours per week by September 2025.

Eligible working parents of three and four-year-olds already get 30 hours a week of free childcare. This expanded offer for younger children will be rolled out in stages as follows:

  • From April 2024 - working parents of two-year olds can access 15 hours of free childcare.
  • From September 2024 – working parents of children aged 9 to 23 months can access 15 hours of free childcare.
  • From September 2025 – working parents of children aged nine months upwards can access 30 hours of free childcare per week, right up to their child starting school.

Depending on your provider, these hours can be used over 38 weeks during term time, or up to 52 weeks if you use fewer than your total hours per week.

The funding is not intended to cover the costs of meals, nappies or additional activities, such as trips. Providers may charge a fee for these additions.

Eligible working parents

You or your partner must work at least 16 hours per week and not earn more than £100,000 to be eligible for this expanded funding. You can check full eligibility criteria on the Childcare Choices website.

If you are not in work you will not qualify for this offer but you may qualify for the free childcare for 2 year olds scheme.

When can I apply?

Children are entitled to the funded hours from the term after the age they become eligible:

  • Children born between 1st January and 31st March become eligible from 1st April
  • Children born between 1st April and 31st August become eligible from 1st September
  • Children born between 1st September and 31st December become eligible from 1st January

Remember, the expanded offer is being rolled out in phases, with working parents of 2-year-olds eligible to apply first. This means your child will need to have reached their second birthday on or before 31st March 2024 and you must apply by 31st March to access the free childcare from 1st April. 

How to apply?

For phase 1, working parents of 2-year-olds must Apply via GOV.UK.

You will need to sign in to your government gateway account, or create a new account if you do not have one.

The online application process will tell you the full eligibility criteria and what you need to provide when you apply. You should find out if you’re eligible straight away, but it can take up to 7 days.

Parents that claim tax free childcare must apply for the expanded offer code when you renew your tax free childcare claim. If your renewal date is in late February or March you will receive a letter with a temporary code.

What happens next?

If approved, a childcare account will be set up and you’ll get a code to give to your childcare provider to access the funding.

Because the first phase applies from 1st April 2024, parents that apply from 2nd January will need to reconfirm eligibility before using the code.

Every three months you must reconfirm your eligibility, via your childcare account, to keep your code valid.

View further details on the Childcare Choices website.