Free entitlement to childcare is available for all 3 and 4 year olds. It allows access to free, good quality, flexible early education or childcare.

You can access this entitlement from the term after the child’s third birthday. No application form or eligibility code is required for the universal 15 hours; children are automatically entitled once they meet the age criteria. Children are entitled to the equivalent of 570 hours per year. This can be accessed as 15 hours per week during term time or on a more flexible basis for families who require childcare all year round e.g. 11 hours per week over 51 weeks of the year.

When will my child be eligible?
3rd birthday between Becomes eligible from
1 April and 31 August Start of Autumn Term
1 September and 31 December Start of Spring Term
1 January and 31 March Start of Summer Term

The childcare provider must be rated ‘Satisfactory', 'Good' or 'Outstanding' in their most recent Ofsted report to be authorised to offer free childcare.

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Please note that not all providers will be able to offer the full 15 hour, 38 week entitlement.

Frequently asked questions

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 offer you the choice of attending during term times only (15 hours over 38 weeks of the year) or throughout the year (11 hours per week over 51 weeks).

All children are eligible from the term after their third birthday (see table above) up until they start at primary school in the reception class.

You do not need to complete an application form or provide an eligibility code for the universal entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds (15 hours); this is only required for parents who are accessing funding for their 2 year old or if you are eligible for the extended entitlement (30 hours funding).

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.

Find childcare

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 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 (15 hours over 38 weeks of the year) or throughout the year (11 hours per week over the full year).

Your child’s first 15 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 15 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 15 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.

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 15 hours each week. The child cannot be funded for more than 10 hours per day and the child must not attend more than 2 different sites per day.

The 30 hours childcare scheme is available for working families who meet certain eligibility criteria.  Please visit the 30 hours free childcare page for more information.