Working parents of three and four year olds are potentially eligible for an additional 15 hours a week childcare which is known as the 30 Hours Free Childcare.

This entitlement, introduced in September 2017, entitles eligible families to up to 1140 hours per year of free childcare. This can be accessed as 30 hours per week during term time (38 weeks) or it can be used more flexibly over the whole year, for example 22 hours per week over 51 weeks of the year.


Children are eligible from the term following their 3rd birthday until the end of the term before they start in a primary school place or in the case of delayed/deferred entry, until they reach statutory school age.

Both parents (or the sole parent, if a one parent family), will need to be in work and earning the equivalent of 16 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage. This will be inclusive of those families receiving tax credits or universal credit. Parents must be working and each earning at least £139 a week, but no more than £100,000 a year.

Eligibility will continue should a parent be away from work temporarily (sick or maternity). Families where one parent is working and the other has a disability or substantial caring responsibilities should also be eligible.


Some providers already offer childcare 51 weeks of the year. More might consider this option so that parents can find childcare that meets their needs. If the funded offer is spread across 51 weeks instead of 38 weeks term time only, then it would equate to an estimate of 22 hours per week.

Some providers may choose not to offer 30 hours of childcare, especially if a provider does not have the resources or staff to extend their services. You can look for other providers however, even those outside of Torbay. Each provider should have an admissions policy which will state which parents or children receive priority. Your 30 hours funding can also be split between two providers.

Providers are being encouraged to be flexible and explore ways in which they can meet the needs of their families. This could be easier for some providers than others depending on their location and facilities. Discuss your working patterns with your local providers to see which can accommodate you favorably. You could also use more than one provider and split the funding. (You would have to make sure that they are aware of this if you choose to do so).

There are a large number of providers of this service within Torbay. You can use any Ofsted registered childcare provider that is registered with us to receive early years funding. This could be at a day nursery, school nursery, a pre-school, or with a childminder.  You can find more information about Torbay Childcare Providers on the Torbay FIS Directory.

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The hours/sessions you can book and how flexible these are will depend on your chosen childcare provider. You will normally be asked to commit to the same weekly pattern of hours for each term and changes to these will need to be agreed with them.  Although we encourage providers to offer the free hours in a flexible manner, you will need to take the hours within their available sessions.  Your childcare provider may also offer you the choice of attending during term times only (30 hours over 38 weeks of the year) or throughout the year (22 hours per week over the full year).

Your child’s first 30 hours of childcare each week will be free (or the agreed number of hours) but anything above this will need to be paid for at whatever the normal rates charged by the provider are. You may also be charged for any additional extras that you use, for example hot lunches that are considered over and above the ‘normal’ nursery day. However, you should not have to take any of these additional services or extras in order to receive your free hours.

Example: If your child attends a session of three hours (that is part of your free 30 hours) and the children go for a forest school lesson that costs £5 in that time, you can be charged for the forest school lesson if you want your child to attend. However, your child should not have to attend this lesson (and incur the cost) as a condition of them receiving their free hours and there should be a free alternative available which allows your child to attend the session without this cost.

Any costs charged to you should be made clear on your invoice.

Within the sessions your childcare provider offers, any hours between 6am and 8pm are potentially free. The first 30 hours your child attends each week (between the hours of 6am and 8pm) at the childcare provider will be the free ones. The maximum a child can claim free in one day is 10 hours and the child should not attend more than 2 providers on different sites in one day.

Children are eligible to receive this funding from the term after their 3rd birthday until the end of the term before they start their place in primary school. For example, a child who will be starting at primary school in September 2022 will be eligible for early years funding until the end of the summer term 2021 (July/August 2021).

If you choose to delay or defer your child’s place at primary school, early years funding can be used until the end of the term in which your child has their 5th birthday. For example, a child who remains with an early years provider and doesn’t start school whose 5th birthday is in July can be funded for the early years entitlements until the end of the summer term. Please note that you must follow the formal admissions process to defer or delay entry to school Torbay Council Admissions.

It will be up to you how many free hours your child receives at each provider. You will need to complete a Parental Declaration Form for each one giving details of the hours you want to use. They will then be able to calculate any fees you owe for the childcare you use over your free hours. If you split your free hours between two or more providers you will still only receive a maximum of 30 hours each week. The child cannot be funded for more than 10 hours per day and the child must not attend more than two different sites per day.

You need to apply for the entitlement though the GOV.UK website.

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You must apply for the entitlement the term before you wish to start using it. 

If you are eligible, you will be issued an eligibility code which you must give to your childcare provider along with your National Insurance number and child’s DOB. 

Your childcare provider will validate your code to confirm your entitlement and confirm the date when you can access the entitlement from. 

You are expected to reconfirm your eligibility for the 30 hours through the GOV.UK website every 3 months (failure to do this will result in your entitlement ceasing).

If your employment circumstances change; it may affect your entitlement the next time you reconfirm your eligibility.  Your childcare provider will let you know if you are approaching your entitlement end date (called a grace period) and need to reconfirm.

The best way to find out if you’re eligible is to visit and check the eligibility requirements against your own personal situation.