Free childcare for 2-4 year olds


Some working parents will be eligible for an additional 15 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year olds. These families will be able to access up to 30 hours of free childcare a week, 38 weeks a year.

If your childcare provider has space, you may be able to stretch your hours over more weeks e.g. 22 hours over 48 weeks. Talk to them about this.

  • If their birthday is before 1 September, they can start in the autumn term
  • If their birthday is before 1 January, they can start in the spring term
  • If their birthday is before 1 April, they can start in the summer term

You will need to apply to HMRC for your eligibility code well in advance as you must have your code by the following deadlines.

Term Eligibility start date on or before Entitled
Spring 31 December From 1 January
Summer 31 March 1 April
Autumn 31 August From 1 September


You may be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare if your circumstances are as follows:

  • Both parents are earning or expect to earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours per week at the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage over the coming three months. If you are an apprentice you may still qualify. 
  • 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’ (i.e. they are newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate that they meet the income criteria for 12 months.
  • If a non-EEA national, the parent must have recourse to public funds.

The eligibility criteria will not be met when:

  • Either parent has an income of more than £100,000
  • In a two parent household where one parent is not working and does not meet any of the above criteria

You will not be eligible if you’re from outside the EEA and your UK residence card says you cannot access public funds. Your partner can apply instead if they’re from:

  • the UK or EEA
  • outside the EEA and their UK residence card says they can access public funds

How to apply

To find out if you are eligible for 30 hours free childcare, you can apply now on the Childcare Service. You will need your national insurance number and, where applicable, your partner’s national insurance number to fill in the application form.

To keep your 30 hours free childcare place, you will need to renew your eligibility code every 3 months as prompted by HMRC or before the code's end date, at If you don't, the funding is stopped.

If parents encounter any problems with the application process or with accessing the childcare account, they can call the childcare service Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.

Benefits of childcare

Watch this video to hear how parents and carers feel that childcare has helped them and their child.

Early childhood education is an excellent way to shape a child’s confidence and curiosity before attending school. It provides an opportunity to learn, play and make new friends.


Hackney Family Information Service (FIS)

020 8820 7000 option 6 or 020 8820 7590
This page was last modified on: 5 May 2024