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Hertfordshire County Council

 

Find out how much free childcare you can get, how to claim it and where you can use it. It all depends on your child's age and circumstances.

 

Free early education for 2 year olds

What am I entitled to?

Your 2 year old can get 570 hours of free early education per year if you receive one of these benefits. That's 15 hours per week if term time only.

  • income support
  • Universal Credit – if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • 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)
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Contribution based JSA/ESA is not a qualifying benefit.

 
Your 2 year old can also get 570 hours free early education a year if they:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have a current statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan
  • have left care through a special guardianship or an adoption or child arrangement order
  • get disability living allowance.

That's 15 hours per week if term time only.

Visit gov.uk for the more details of who's eligible.

How do I claim it?

If you think you're eligible, you need to apply online. You can start applying around your child's 2nd birthday:

If your child turns 2 between...You can apply from...

1 January – 31 March

1 January

1 April – 31 August

1 April

1 September – 31 December

1 September

You'll need:

  • your National Insurance/NASS number
  • your child's NHS number (check your red book or ask your GP)


If you're eligible, we'll send you a reference code to use when you contact childcare providers.

 

When can I start using it?

If you make an eligible application between...You can start using your free hours from...

1 January – 31 March

1 April
(after their 2nd birthday)

1 April – 31 August

1 September
(after their 2nd birthday)

1 September – 31 December

1 January
(after their 2nd birthday)

Where can I use it?

Find an approved childcare provider offering free early education for 2 year olds, in our childcare directory:


How to choose a childcare provider
- find out the differences between each type and what details to look out for.


Contact a provider with your reference code, let them know when you'd like to start and see if they have any available places.

How long does it last?

Your free hours won't decrease or stop, even if your circumstances change.

Find out what your child is entitled to when they turn 3.

 

Free early education and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

3 and 4 year olds are entitled to either:

  • 570 hours of free childcare per year.
    15 hours per week, if you use it during the 38 weeks of term time

or

  • 1,140 hours of free childcare per year
    30 hours per week, if you use it during the 38 weeks of term time.

 

15 hours free early education

What am I entitled to?

You are still entitled to 570 hours of free childcare per year. This amounts to 15 hours per week, if you use it during the 38 weeks of term time.

How do I claim it?

You don't need to do anything. There's no application, code or voucher required. Just find an approved childcare provider offering 15 hours of free childcare, then contact them directly.

When can I start using it?

If your child's birthday is between...You can start using your free hours from...

1 January – 31 March

1 April
(after their 3rd birthday)

1 April – 31 August

1 September
(after their 3rd birthday)

1 September – 31 December

1 January
(after their 3rd birthday)

Where can I use it?

Find an approved childcare provider offering 15 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds, in our childcare directory:


How to choose a childcare provider
- find out the differences between each type and what details to look out for.


Once you've chosen a provider, let them know when you'd like to start and see if they have any available places.

How long does it last?

Your free hours are available until your child starts reception class or until the start of the school term after their 5th birthday - whichever comes first.

 

Find out if you're eligible for 30 hours of free childcare

Read the government's guidance or use their childcare calculator.

 

If you are eligible for 30 hours of free childcare:

How do I claim it and when can I start using it?

Visit GOV.UK to find out:

  • How to apply
  • When to apply
  • When you can start using your free hours.

Where can I use it?

Find an approved childcare provider offering 30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds, in our childcare directory:


How to choose a childcare provider
- find out the differences between each type and what details to look out for.


Once you've chosen a provider, let them know when you'd like to start and see if they have any available places.

How long does it last?

You need to sign in to your childcare account on GOV.UK and re-confirm your details every 3 months to keep receiving free childcare.

This will continue until your child starts reception class or until the start of the school term after their 5th birthday - whichever comes first.

 

How to choose a childcare provider


What's the difference?

Childminders

  • Self-employed and registered with Ofsted, they will care for your children at their home.
  • Must hold a relevant qualification.
  • They deliver the early years foundation stage.
  • To offer free early education, they must be registered with the local authority.
  • Ask your childminder about any specialist services they offer.

Day nurseries

  • Registered and inspected by Ofsted.
  • The manager or leader will hold a relevant qualification.
  • They deliver the early years foundation stage.
  • Must be registered on the scheme to offer free early education to 2, 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Open throughout the year, usually offering either full or half day sessions.

Nursery schools and classes (maintained)

  • Schools run by the Local Authority, inspected by Ofsted.
  • Visit the nursery website for information on how to apply, admission rules and what provision is available.
  • Maintained nursery schools offer free early education to 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Some will offer free early education to eligible younger children from the age of 2.

Pre-schools and playgroups

  • Registered with Ofsted and deliver the early years foundation stage.
  • The manager or leader will hold a relevant qualification.
  • Must be registered on the scheme to offer free early education to 2, 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Normally only open during school term time only and tend to cater for 2-4 year old children.
  • Pre-schools can also be called playgroups, nurseries or kindergartens.

Out of school care – after school, breakfast and holiday clubs

  • Registered with Ofsted and inspected by them.
  • They provide care for children aged 4 - 11.
  • The manager or leader will hold a relevant qualification.
  • The majority of out of school clubs will provide a light meal or snack during the session.
  • Clubs will offer a range of activities for children.


How you can use your hours

Some providers will let you:

  • spread your free hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week
  • split your free hours between up to 3 providers.

Contact them and ask.


Additional costs

  • You should never have to pay for any part of your free childcare or pay for additional services in order to get your free hours.
  • Some providers might charge extra for consumables like nappies or outings.


When you contact a provider, they should tell you up front:

  • how many free childcare places they have (in their admissions policy)
  • when you can use your free hours
  • any additional costs
  • the price of any extra hours you want to take.

 

If you have any questions, please contact childcare@hertfordshire.gov.uk.

 

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