Free childcare hours extend to children over 9 months – everything parents need to know

The Department for Education has urged parents to act now to secure a place

Albert Toth
Saturday 11 May 2024 09:29 BST
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Free childcare will expand to younger children from September
Free childcare will expand to younger children from September (PA Wire)

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Parents have been encouraged to apply soon to claim free childcare for their children as the government rolls out new entitlements this year.

From May 12, working parents of children 9 months and older will be able to apply for 15 hours a week of free childcare. This brings the age of eligible children down even further, with entitlement for two-year-olds beginning last month.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said parents should act now to secure a place for September as a small number of providers will have waiting lists of over six months. They recommend reaching out to your preferred provider as soon as possible.

The deadline to apply for the first round of free childcare for children aged nine months is August 31.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “This government has a track record of transforming childcare, with the offer of 30 hours for 3 and 4-year-olds for eligible working parents introduced in 2017.

“We are now going further, giving hard-working parents of under threes the certainty they deserve to balance growing their families with a successful and rewarding career, saving parents up to an average of £6,900 a year for the full 30 hours.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said parents will be saved up to an average of £6900
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said parents will be saved up to an average of £6900 (PA Wire)

How do I apply for free childcare?

To apply for free childcare, you and your child must meet certain eligibility criteria. The number of hours of free childcare you can get will vary depending on the age of your child.

If your child is nine months old, you can get up to 15 hours of free childcare. If youR child will be aged between 9 and 23 months old on 31 August, you can apply from 12 May.

If your child is two, you can get up to 15 hours of free childcare. You can apply from when your child is one year and 36 weeks.

If they are aged three to four, you can get up to 30 hours, and you can apply from when your child is two years and 36 weeks.

When you apply, you’ll receive a code to give to your childcare provider. You must renew your code every three months to confirm your eligibility.

Will there be enough childcare places?

There has been some concern from childcare providers that the government expansion of free childcare will exceed the sector’s current capacity.

The DfE has estimated that around 85,000 more childcare places and 40,000 extra staff will be needed by September 2025. The department says it will invest £400 million in 2024-25 to ensure services run properly.

However, a report earlier this year by the Early Years Alliance discovered that 55 per cent of all childcare services have no places available and also have a waiting list.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the charity, said the research “should send alarm bells ringing” among ministers.

For details on how to apply and eligibilty for free childcare, visit the government’s website.

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