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HM Government Childcare Choices

What do childcare providers need to know?


Thousands of parents have already applied for two new schemes: Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare.


Find out how the new schemes affect you.

Tax-Free Childcare

What does Tax-Free Childcare mean for me?

Tax-Free Childcare offers parents with children under 12 up to £2,000 per child, per year, towards their childcare costs (or under 17 and up to £4,000 for disabled children). Eligible parents entering the scheme will open an online childcare account that they can use to pay you for childcare. Payments will work just as they would through an online bank account, using a reference number for each child so you can identify their payments. 

You will only be able to receive Tax-Free Childcare payments from your customers if you’ve signed up - external linkto receive payments from the scheme.

You can find information and materials on Childcare Choices in our stakeholder toolkit - external link, and in our local authority communications toolkit - external link.  

How do I sign up as a provider?

Over September and October 2016, letters were sent to registered childcare providers across the UK inviting providers to sign up  - external linkonline, and setting out the information needed to do this. 

If you’ve only recently registered, an invite will be automatically generated once we’ve received registration confirmation from your regulator.

How do I find out which child a payment is for? 

When parents make payments to you via their childcare account, the payment will appear alongside their unique child reference number in your bank account. Parents are given these reference numbers in their welcome packs when they sign up to Tax-Free Childcare. These reference numbers are made up of the first letter of the child’s first name, the first three letters of their surname, a five digit number and ‘TFC’. For example, John Smith may have the reference JSMI12345TFC. Parents are encouraged to pass these numbers on to you, to support you in matching payments to individual children.

However, if you are having trouble matching which child a payment relates to you can submit a payment reconciliation form.

30 hours free childcare

What does 30 hours mean for me?

Since September 2017, 30 hours free childcare has been available to eligible working families of 3 and 4 year olds in England. This is an additional 15 hours on top of the 15 hours available to all parents of three and four year olds.

There are a range of resources available for providers to help you decide whether you wish to offer parents the extended entitlement. These include:

You should encourage parents to apply now if you will be offering 30 hours next term. Parents may be asked for further information, so we strongly advise parents to apply well ahead of the start date for each term. Term start dates are 1st September, 1st January and 1st April.

How do I offer 30 hours?

Contact the early years lead at your local authority as soon as possible. They will be able to provide you with information on processes in place locally to support delivery of 30 hours. If you decide to offer 30 hours then it is likely that your local authority will ask you to sign an agreement.

Providers don’t have to offer the full 30 hours and you may choose to work in partnership with other local providers to create a joint offer which helps you manage patterns of demand and offer greater flexibility to parents. 

The Family Childcare Trust has developed a Partnership Toolkit - external link. Information on partnership working can also be found in the Operational Guidance.

Childcare Choices have developed a range of communications tools - external link to help you promote 30 hours and Tax-Free childcare to parents. Here you can find useful templates on leaflets, emails and posters. We've also developed a new local authority communications toolkit - external link

Who is eligible for 30 hours?

Parents in England can check their eligibility for 30 hours through the Childcare Calculator - external link and apply for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare through the childcare service - external link.

If eligible, the parent will receive an 11-digit eligibility code. Before a parent can take up a place they must bring their code, national insurance number and child’s date of birth to you so you can check that their code is valid. You should encourage parents to bring you their code as soon as they receive it. Your local authority will be able to provide you with information about the process for validating codes in your area. Every three months parents will need to reconfirm that the details they entered on their application are still up to date. They will be prompted to do this, but it is good practice for providers to encourage parents to do this.

How will I be paid?

Once you have validated the parent’s code and checked that the child is the correct age to take up their place (further information about this can be found in the operational guidance - external link), you will be paid through the local procedures for headcount claims.