Children and families

Free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds

All 3 and 4-year-olds can get 15 hours free childcare per week, and up to 30 hours per week for eligible working families.

15 hours free childcare - universal funding

All 3 and 4-year-old children can get 15 hours of free childcare or early education a week, 38 weeks per year.  This can be administered over three terms or stretched out to suit your needs. This universal funding applies to all families, no matter how much you earn.

30 hours free childcare - extended funding

3 and 4 year-old children from working families can get an extra 15 hours a week of free childcare, so 30 hours in total. This can be administered over three terms or stretched out to suit your needs. You won't be eligible for this extended entitlement if you or your partner earn £100,000 or more. Visit Childcare Choices for full eligibility criteria.

The universal and extended 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.

When can I apply?

Children become eligible from the term after their third birthday, until statutory school age:

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

How to apply

To receive the free sessions, the childcare provider must be registered with Ofsted and included on the local authority list of early education providers. These include school nurseries, day nurseries, childminders, and playgroups.

To find out if your childcare provider is on our list, ask a member of staff at the nursery or contact Liverpool Family Information Service on freephone 0800 085 2022.

To claim the universal 15 hours funding

Your childcare provider will ask you to complete a form and apply on your behalf.

To claim the extended 30 hours funding

You can check if you are eligible and apply online via Childcare Choices.

When your application is approved, you will receive a code to give to your childcare provider.


Your child will be eligible for the 30-hour offer from the term after they turn three, or the term after you receive your eligibility code – whichever is later.

For example, if your child turns three on 25th March, and you apply for the 30-hours on 27th March, your child will be eligible for a place from 1st April (the start of the spring term). However, if your child turns three on 25th March, but you don’t apply for the 30-hours until 5 April, your child won’t be eligible for a place until 1st September (the start of the autumn term).

Yes. The 15-hour offer is still universal so if you’re not eligible for a 30-hour place, you will still be eligible for the 15-hour offer.

If you no longer meet the eligibility criteria, your child’s 30-hour place will continue to be funded for a 'grace period' (see the table below). You should discuss this with your provider if and when you lose eligibility.

Once the grace period has expired, you will still be eligible for the 15-hour funded childcare offer. If you have been taking up the 30-hours at two providers, you can decide which provider you want to continue taking up your 15-hour places from.

Grace periods
When offer expires End of grace period
1st January - 10th February 31st March
11th February - 31st March 31st August
1st April - 26th May 31st August
27th May - 31st August 31st December
1st September - 21st October 31st December
22nd October - 31st December 31st March

 No, there is no difference. Childcare providers will provide early years care and education that follows the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework across the whole 30-hours.

Yes. Under government rules, providers can charge a refundable deposit for funded places for two-, three- and four-year-olds. Each local council will have their own arrangements with providers for when deposits are refunded to parents.

Help and advice

If you need help finding a place or you are unsure which provider to choose, please contact the Family Information Service on 0800 085 2022 or visit Liverpool Family Information and SEND Directory.