Government funding is available from the start of a term following a child’s 3rd birthday. This is 15 hours free per week for children aged 3 years and above. The start dates for 3-year-old funding are shown below:

Child’s Birthday
Autumn Term (begins 1st September) 1st April to 31st August
Spring Term (begins 1st January) 1st September to 31st December
Summer Term (begins 1st April) 1st January to 31st March


Think 2

Funding is also available for eligible 2-year-old children. The criteria for eligibility are based on the family claiming any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Child Tax Credit and have an Annual income not over £16,190 (CTC)
  • Working Tax Credit and have an Annual income not over £16,190 (WTC)
  • 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)
  • Universal Credit and have a net annual household earnings below £15,400 (this means your take-home pay from any paid employment, after Income Tax and NI contributions have been deducted)

2-year-old children are also eligible if they:

  • Have a current statement of SEN or an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC) *
  • Attract Disability Living Allowance (DLA) *
  • They are Looked after by their Local Authority
  • Have left care through special guardianship or through an adoption or residence order *
  • Children of Zambrano Carers *
  • Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private / family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Children of a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘The 1999 Act’)

* Documentation will be required as proof where an application is made against these additional criteria. Copies of the documentation can be posted or emailed to the Think2 Team. (

Government has temporary extended the funding eligibility criteria to include two year old children assessed as being vulnerable and meeting the definition in Section 17 of the Children Act (1989) and who have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

Please note: If your circumstances change your funded place will not be taken away.

An application can be made online, click the link below.

Think2 online application


30 Hour Funding

From September 2017 some families could receive an additional 15 hours of funded childcare making up to 30 hours of funded childcare per week. This can be taken over 38 weeks over the year. Families must at least meet the minimum earnings criteria and apply to HMRC.

The eligibility criteria are as follows:

Each parent (or lone parent) earns at least the minimum equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum wage or national living wage, this equates to earning at least:

  • £131 per week (or at least £1707.68 over the next 3 months – National Living Wage) for each parent aged 25 years and older.
  • £123.20 per week for each parent aged 21-24 years.

You will not be eligible if:

  • Either parent earns more than £100,000 a year.
  • Either parent is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control and has no recourse to public funds.

Foster carers

Since September 2018 foster carers have been able to apply for fostered children where the following criterion is met:

  • accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan, placing the child at the centre of the process and decision making, and
  • If in a two parent family, when both partners are foster carers, both must engage in any amount of paid work outside their role as a foster carer. If one partner is not a foster carer they must meet the main criteria for working the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage as outlined above.
  • If in a single parent foster family, the foster parent must also engage in any amount of paid work outside their role as foster carer.

Extended criteria

Some families of 3 and 4 year olds could be eligible for the extended hours if one of the following is met and normally parents meet earnings criteria:

  • Where one or both parents are unable to work due to paid maternity leave, paternity leave, statutory sick. Families wishing to apply for extended hours for an age eligible adopted child, can do so from 31 days before returning back to work. Parents can still apply for a birth child at any point whilst on adoption leave for another child.
  • Where one parent (in a couple household) meets the earnings criteria but the other parent is in receipt of benefits due to having career responsibilities preventing employment or has incapacity or limited capacity to work.
  • Where one parent is in the ‘start up period’ (newly self-employed) they do not need to demonstrate they meet the income criteria for 12 months.

Parents (foster carers see below) apply on the HMRC website Childcare Choices who check and confirm eligibility. Parents who do not have internet access should contact the HMRC Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.

*Foster carers do not need to apply online and must contact the related social worker/key worker who will make and support an application to the local authority for the extended 15 hours on foster carers behalf.

If parents are successful, the following will take place:

  • Parents who applied via Childcare Choices will be sent an 11 digit code by HMRC to their online Gateway Account and a start date for the extended hours. The extended 15 hours will start from the term period after the parent/ carer receives their code if the child is age eligible.

*Foster carers who successfully apply through their social worker (not Childcare Choices) will be sent an 11 digit code direct from Staffordshire County Council.

  • Parents must give/ present the code letter or confirmation to the childcare provider who is to claim the extended hours. The provider needs to validate the code with their local authority and check the actual funding start date.
  • Parents should discuss with their childcare provider how the funded hours can be taken.
  • Any hours taken prior to the extended funding start date will be paid for by the parent.
  • Parents who have difficulty with their account or retrieving their code should contact the Childcare Choices/ HMRC Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.
  • Important: parents must reconfirm they are still eligible every 3 months. HMRC should normally remind via text/ email to log into their Gateway Account and reconfirm details/ eligibility to continue receiving the extended hours.

*Foster Carers will be contacted every 3 months by the relevant local authority and not HMRC.

  • The extended hours cannot be claimed if a child starts a place when they are out of eligibility/ or is in the grace period for the extended hours (i.e. moving to a new provider). The extended hours can be claimed when eligibility is again confirmed/ successfully applied for. The start date would be the term after the application is made.

What if a family falls out of eligibility?

  • If a family falls out of the eligibility criteria for the extended 15 hours, or they do not confirm their eligibility every 3 months, a grace period of funding will continue for a set date before the extended 15 hours stop.
  • After the grace period is completed and parents are still not eligible, the child will then revert back to being able to claim a maximum of 15 hours per week of funded childcare over 38 weeks.

Should you require any further information or assistance in applying for any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact our Finance Manager, Nikki Johns on 07706 244396 or

Once you have received your code you will need to email this to the above address immediately. This has to be applied for prior to the child starting.