So what is the 30 hours free childcare deal?
In a nutshell, many working parents of 3 to 4-year-olds in England will be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare - rather than the current 15 hours.
30 hours free childcare is only for 38 weeks per year (term time only) - not 52 weeks of the year. You will be able to spread the free childcare out over further weeks, but this will mean you'll get fewer than 30 hours free childcare each week.
When will it start?
Will my child get it?
Not necessarily as not everyone is eligible. But everyone will still receive the 15 hours free childcare that is currently available.
Eligibility rules for 30 hours free childcare:
- Your child will be aged 3 or 4 when the scheme starts
- Both parents must be working - or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family
- Each parent earns, on average, a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage
- Each parent must have an annual income of less than £100,000
- You live in England
How much is the equivalent of 16 hours at National Minimum Wage?
It depends on your age. For this scheme, the minimum amount will always reflect the lowest hourly rate that a person of your age can legally be paid. Therefore, currently for a parent aged 21-24, you'd need to earn a weekly average of at least £111.20. For a parent aged 25+, you'd need to earn a weekly average of at least £115.20.
What if one parent in a couple isn't working?
This is basically a scheme to help working parents, so families where one parent doesn't work, or both parents don't work, will usually not be eligible for these additional 15 hours.
However, if one parent isn't working because they're an official carer (eg receiving benefits relating to being a carer) or they are receiving disability benefits, and the other parent is working, then the Government has stated it "intends to make provision" to support these families.
There is also additional entitlement if the parent normally works but is temporarily away from the workplace, for example on statutory sick pay, statutory maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
What if you are self-employed or on a zero hours contract?
You will be eligible if you (or both of you in a couple) earn at least the equivalent of 16 hours at the National Minimum Wage.
What if one parent loses their job?
There will be a short "grace period" - although this hasn't yet been defined - allowing parents to have a chance to find new employment.
How do you apply for the 30 hours free childcare?
You'll be able to apply for both the 30-hour scheme and the Tax-Free Childcare scheme through a joint online application being developed by HMRC. This is because the eligibility requirements for both schemes are aligned.
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