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About childcare

Don't miss out on free childcare

All children aged 3 or 4 years old are eligible for free early education for up to 15 hours a week. The Government is increasing this to 30 hours a week for working parents earning the equivalent of the National Minimum wage for 16 hours per week from September 2017, you can now sign up to receive an alert about when to apply.  Working parents in receipt of Universal Credit may be entitled to receive the childcare costs element of Universal Credit.  This means that they can be reimbursed up to 85% of their eligible childcare costs for childcare which enables them to take up paid work.  Parents can see what help they can get with the cost of childcare via the Childcare Choices website

This childcare costs element can be claimed by parents in addition to the DfE's free childcare element. 

The government is introducing a Tax Free Childcare scheme. 


Gov.UK - help paying for childcare

Gov.UK - tax free childcare

Find out about help you could get with your childcare costs via the government on-line calculator

Two year old funding

Some 2-year olds are also entitled to funding. To claim free early education for two year olds your income must not exceed £16,190.

To apply use our eligibility checker online.

Children who receive Disability Living Allowance or who have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption are also entitled to two year old funding. Please fill in the eligibility checker online and then ask for a referral.

Children can only receive a free early education place from the start of the funding period after their second birthday. The funding periods start on 1 January, 1 April and 1 September each year.

Childcare is good for children

Research has shown that good quality childcare can:

  • improve children's development - for example their communication skills
  • help them learn to socialise with other children and make friends
  • help them begin to get ready for school
  • give them access to new activities and exciting places to play

Childcare is also good for families - it can give you a bit more time to spend with your younger children, take up a college course, or go back to work. It will also give you new ideas of activities to do with your child at home and how you can help them grow and learn.

Types of childcare

  • childminders - usually look after children in the childminder's own home.  Most will work early mornings, evenings and weekends and in the holidays.  We have produced some useful leaflets to help you choose a childminder - 'What to look for when choosing a childminder', 'Key questions to ask' and 'Why choose a childminder'
  • pre-schools -  offer sessions of between 2.5 and 4 hours in term time.  Many offer 15 hours a week free early learning for two, three and four year olds
  • nurseries - offer full day care usually from 8am through to 6pm
  • out of school care - offer before and after school sessions and holiday care
  • school nursery classes - open during school hours, offering full or half-day sessions

Think ahead

Many parents are able to find suitable childcare as soon as they need it, but for others it may take several months of searching before you can find somewhere that accommodates both your own and your child's needs.

Let us know if you are having difficulties finding suitable childcare.

Think about what you want and need from childcare and what kind of childcare would best suit your needs. For example, do you need childcare in the evening, early morning or at the weekend? Will you need additional childcare for school age children during school holidays? 

Check quality

All childcare providers are checked by Ofsted.

Ofsted website

Other parents' experiences of a childcare provider can also be very useful.  Childcare providers should be happy to put you in contact with other parents so that you can take up references about the service they provide. However, remember that what works for one family, may not work for another. 

Family and Childcare Trust - childcare factsheets

Becoming a childcare provider

If you are thinking of becoming a childminder or are interested in starting a business in childcare please see our advice page .

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