Do you know what free childcare you’re entitled to? With so much conflicting information out there, it can be confusing to work out exactly what’s available, and how to access it.
So here’s a round-up of the latest childcare funding information.
Before we summarise what’s changing, here’s a look at the current situation in childcare funding.
The current childcare funding picture
Funding for 2-year-olds
Your 2-year-old can get 570 hours of free early education and childcare per year (normally taken as 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year or 11 hours per week for 51 weeks) if you receive one of the following:
- income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- universal Credit
- tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
- the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
- the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:
- they’re looked after by a local council
- they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
- they get Disability Living Allowance
- they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
The point at which you can claim your free hours depends on when your child was born:
Funding for 3- and 4-year-olds
The only universal funding currently available to parents in England is 15 hours of free childcare education, to be taken during term time. This is offered at the beginning of the term after your child turns three.
Funding is paid directly to the childcare provider of your choice.
Basic rate tax payers can currently pay for up to £55 a week (or £243 a month) of childcare with vouchers from your employer. This is taken directly from your salary and paid to the childcare provider, before you pay tax and National Insurance on it. The £55 a week limit is per parent, so could amount to £446 a month if two working parents, potentially saving you £1,000s a year.
“You give up £1,000 of salary …but after tax & NI that’s only worth £700ish in your pocket. In return, you get £1,000 of vouchers… so you’re £300 better off.”*
Childcare vouchers can affect the amount of tax credits you receive. You can complete a quick check online using the Government’s calculator to find out more.
To get started, talk to your employer to see if they offer a childcare voucher scheme. The scheme is not available if you’re self-employed or a sole trader.
* Source: Money Saving Expert
What’s changing in September 2017?
From September 2017, 30 hours of free childcare will be available for 3- and 4-year-olds (normally taken as 30 hours per week during term time or 22 hours per week for 51 weeks of the year).
- both parents must be working, or the sole parent must be working in a lone-parent family
- each parent must earn at least the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage
- both parents must not be earning more than £100,000 a year each. For example, if parent A was earning £120,000 a year and parent B was earning £80,000 in a year, they would not be eligible as parent A is above the threshold.
TAX-FREE CHILDCARE SCHEME
The Government is introducing a new scheme in 2017 to eventually replace the Childcare Voucher scheme. For every £0.80 you put towards your childcare, the Government will give £0.20, effectively giving you the basic rate tax back on what you pay.
In total you can use this new scheme to pay for up to £10,000 of childcare per child, so you could get an extra £2,000 a year.
Unlike the current Childcare Vouchers, this new scheme will be available to all qualifying parents, including the self-employed.
- both parents must be working (or self-employed)
- both parents must be working a minimum of 16 hours per week at the minimum wage (currently £120 per week)
- your child must be under 12 years old
- both parents must each earn under £100,000 per year
What do to next
1. USE THE CHILDCARE CALCULATOR
Enter your details into the Government’s childcare calculator to check what help you could get with childcare costs (click the button below to open the calculator in a new window):
2. ACCESS THE CHILDCARE SERVICE AS A PARENT
Apply for the Government Scheme now to access your 30 hours of free childcare, starting in September 2017.
Parents of childcare who’ll be 3 on 31st August 2017 can apply now.
To get started, click the button below. The Government website will open in a new window, providing details of what information you’ll need for your application, and giving you access to the online form.
3. REGISTER YOUR PLACE FOR 30 HOURS OF FREE CHILDCARE FROM SEPTEMBER 2017
You are also advised to get your name registered now with the nursery of your choice, as we expect to fill up quickly once the 30 hours of free childcare is launched in September 2017.
To reserve your 30 hours at a Naturally Learning nursery, either in St Austell or Truro, click the link below and complete the enquiry form:
It can be confusing to work out what childcare funding support is available. Hopefully this article helps to clarify – there are plenty of other resources online:
- Government guidance on new 30 hours of free childcare scheme
- General information about childcare funding in England
- Childcare calculator
- Early Years Operational Guidance for Providers
Or you can call your local Naturally Learning nursery and we’ll be happy to answer any questions: