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Provider FAQs for funded places

The following frequently asked questions will help guide providers on how they can offer early education funded (EEF) places. Providers should also refer to the current provider agreement that all providers have received which outlines the full regulations and conditions when offering funded childcare places.

Where can I find information about funded places for 2, 3 and 4 year olds and parent information?

All information on funded places, including criteria, when children become eligible, 30 hours and more, can be found on our website.

What is the criteria for 2 year funding (Think2) and how do families apply?

Families must meet the criteria and make an application.

Providers must see the parent confirmation voucher letter before excepting a Think2 placement.

When do 3 and 4 year olds become eligible for universal funded places?

All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours per week of funded places from the term after turning 3 years old:

  • 1 January - 31 March, funded places can start in the summer term (from 1 April)
  • 1 April - 31 August, funded places can start in the autumn term (from 1 September)
  • 1 September - 31 December, funded places can start in the spring term (from 1 January)

Universal funding is for 15 hours per week over 38 weeks (term time), or 570 hours 'stretched' through more weeks of the year.

Parents are eligible for the funded hours up until and including the term a child turns five years old if the child is attending a day nursery, preschool, childminder or out of school club.

Children cannot receive the funded hours if they attend a state local authority or academy reception class.

* Funding can be claimed for children attending an independent school reception class.

Which 3 and 4 year olds could be eligible for 30 hours?

All parents in the household must be in employment and meet at least the minimum earnings criteria. As part of an extended criteria some families may still be able to claim for the extended 15 hours even though they are not in employment.

See the full criteria for further details.

Can foster carers or adopting parents claim for the extended 15 funded hours for 3 and 4 year olds?

Foster carers can apply for the extended 15 hours for fostered children so long as these criteria are 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
  • 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 parent they must meet the criteria for working the equivalent of 16 hours at the national minimum or living wage as outlined above
  • In a single parent foster family, the foster parent must engage in any amount of paid work outside their role as foster carer

Adopted parents can claim the extended 15 hours for legally adopted children from 31 days before returning work (or if already at work) and if they meet the earnings criteria. Parents can still apply for their own birth child at any point whilst on adoption leave for another child.

How do parents apply for 30 hours?

Parents must meet the earnings criteria to receive the extended 15 hours and apply online on the HMRC website. Parents who make a successful application will be given an 11 digit code that they must present to their childcare provider.

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

Successful applicants will receive a confirmation letter from Staffordshire County Council with an 11 digit that begins '400'. This letter must be presented to your childcare provider.

When do 3 and 4 year olds become eligible for the extended 15 hours that would make up to 30 hours?

Families would become eligible for the extended 15 hours from the term after they make a successful application for an age eligible child (see above) and receive a code from HMRC* for the extended hours (* from local authority for foster carers):

  • code received between: 1 January - 31 March, extended 15 hours can start in the summer term (from 1 April) for age eligible child
  • code received between:1 April - 31 August, extended 15 hours can start in the autumn term (from 1 September) for age eligible child
  • code received between:1 September - 31 December, extended 15 hours can start in the spring term (from 1 January) for age eligible child.

Providers must check the HMRC letter parents receive that will confirm the extended hours funding start date.

What if parents are having problems obtaining their 30 hour code?

Families must be directed to the HMRC customer interaction centre on 0300 123 4097. We do not check eligibility or issue codes.

* Foster carers must apply to the local authority not HMRC.

What must I do when a parent gives me a 30 hour code?

Providers must validate all 30 hour codes before they can claim for the extended 15 hours for any child. This is done via the online EY Portal account where you will also find user guides for validating codes and claiming.

Validating the code confirms that the code:

  • is legitimate
  • how long the code is valid for and the potential grace period
  • belongs to the family in question.

The dates of the code being valid will not necessarily be when funding can start from. Providers must see and confirm when the extended funded hours start date commences, this will be stated on the HMRC* confirmation letter parents receive (* foster carers will receive letter from the local authority). This is important as some parents are applying to HMRC and receiving codes before the child is age eligible for 3 and 4 year funding or extended places.

Parents must be made aware that any hours taken prior to the funding start date for extended hours will be paid for by the parent.

What is the 3 month check?

Families who have successfully applied for the extended hours must reconfirm their eligibility every 3 months or they could lose the extended hours.

Parents who applied via Childcare Choices should be reminded by HMRC when to do this check and would need to log into their gateway account to reconfirm.

* Foster carers will be prompted by the responsible local authority.

Providers must also monitor eligibility periods or end dates and grace periods by reviewing the eligibility dashboard in the EY portal. Providers could then inform parents that their 3 month check is due.

Please note: parents can reconfirm their eligibility no earlier than 28 days before the eligibility end date.

What are grace periods for 3 and 4 year olds eligible for the 30 hours?

Grace periods is the short period that families will continue to receive funding for the extended 15 hours after the family no longer meet the earnings criteria. Providers are advised to read clause 9 - grace periods on page 16 of the provider agreement which also outlines the actual grace period length.

Grace Periods
Date Parent receives ineligible decisionGrace period end date
1 January – 10 February 31 March
11 February – 31 March 31 August
1 April – 26 May 31 August
27 May – 31 August 31 December
1 September – 21 October 31 December
22 October – 31 December 31 March

Once the grace period has ended the child reverts back to just being claimed for the universal 15 hours. Any provider that was claiming for the extended 15 hours will need to charge parents for those hours if the child is still attending for them.

What if a family want to start claiming the extended hours but are in their grace period?

The DfE state that the extended hours cannot be claimed if the family are already in the grace period before the child has started the extended hours (even if they had a code). Parents will need to reconfirm eligibility for the extended hours to commence, it will be from the term after new eligibility has been confirmed.

However, local authorities have some discretion to fund the extended hours for families who are in a grace period for the following: the setting no longer meets the quality required to claim funding (are inadequate), a parent is fleeing domestic abuse or other serious crime.

How can I offer the funded hours for families?

It is at the discretion of childcare providers to determine how funded places are offered at the provision within the following parameters:

  • no more than a maximum of 10 hours in a day
  • no minimum requirement of hours
  • between the hours of 6:00am to 8:00pm - Monday to Friday
  • at weekends
  • for the universal 15 hours, the full entitlement could be offered over no less than across 2 days
  • for the full 30 hours, the full entitlement could be offered over no less than across 3 days

Over how many weeks of the year can funding be offered?

Providers can choose to offer funded places either across 38 weeks of the year, or it can be provided as a 'stretched' offer which is over more weeks of the year but for less funded hours per week.

Please note: the 38 week offer does not have to fall in line with the school term weeks and can be supplied during school holidays. 

Providers could also be flexible depending on family requirements, so some children could be claimed as term time only and others as stretched, this is at the discretion of the provider. But one child cannot be claimed by one provider as both term time and stretched in the same term.

Parents can only change from term time to stretched (or vice versa) at the beginning of a term. Important: Providers should keep track of funding used when changing from stretch to term time funding as this could mean a parent uses their annual entitlement before the year is up e.g. stretched in spring or summer to term time only in autumn.

How does stretched funding work?

For example, a 3 year old eligible for 30 hours attending a provider offering funding as stretched over 48 weeks per year:

Total of 1140 hours / 48 weeks = 23 hrs, 45 mins of funding per week.

Can parents chose to split a funded place between providers?

Yes, parents can choose to split funding between multiple providers of any type including school based provision, but no more than across two sites in a single day. Parents must decide which providers claim for what amount of hours and it is only the parent that has the discretion which provider claims for the extended hours in a split arrangement.

How do providers identify the amount of hours claimed at each provider?

This must be identified through the parental declaration and privacy notice, which parents must complete when claiming funded places. Providers are responsible for this. This is a legal requirement and the declaration will be stored securely at the provision.

How much are providers paid for funded hours from April 2020?

  • 2 year olds (Think2) - £5.26 per hour, per child (from £5.18 in 2020/21)
  • 3 and 4 year olds - £4.10 per hour, per child. (from £4.04 in 2020/21)

Additional deprivation supplement rates for 3 and 4 year olds only will remain as follows: 

  • £0.22 lower rate - (per hour, per child for every funded three and four year old in attendance) if between 10-32% of funded children reside in areas of disadvantage which equates to £4.32 per hour.
  • £0.33 higher rate - (per hour, per child for every funded three and four year old in attendance) if between 33-100% of funded children reside in areas of disadvantage which equates to £4.43 per hour.

Can parents have access to funded hours only and what about other charges?

The legislation is clear that parents can have access to funded hours only without the requirement to purpose additional non-funded elements. This means so long as the *provider has the availability, a parent can choose that their child attends for just the funded hours without needing to purchase chargeable services or non- funded hours they are not taking, nor require.

If parents do require additional hours that are not funded, or any other elements or consumables the provider would normally charge for, then the parent must be expected to pay for these.

*providers have discretion on what days/ hours funding is offered.

Can a provider claim for a child's full entitlement even if they are not attending for all of it?

No, providers can only claim for funded hours that have been agreed that the child will attend for at the provision*. Parents are under no obligation to take up the full entitlement and may choose to split the place with another provider, maybe even out of the area. Providers can only claim from the date a child starts with at the provision.

* Providers must supply the funded places from the outset of claiming for the child. Providers cannot hold back funding and charge parent in the meantime to then reimburse them at a later date (e.g. end of the term).

What can providers charge for and top ups?

Providers must inform parents from the outset how the funded hours are accessed or offered to them. Providers must also clearly inform parents that when children attend for additional hours that are not funded what those charges will be.

Providers can charge for food, snacks, transport, nappies and another other additional service or consumable. Parents must be advised of the charges from the outset of a funded place. But parents must not be under any obligation to take paid up extras just for the child to gain access to a funded placement which includes *top ups and registration fees.

*not informing parents the provision is charging/ invoicing the difference between the fee the Council pays for a funded hour and what a provider charges per hour (calculated hourly rate).

Can providers charge for a deposit?

Yes, providers can charge for a deposit so parents can secure a placement, though providers should consider whether a charge should be applied to a disadvantaged family i.e. Think2. Such a deposit can be kept if the child does not start the placement but providers must reimburse a deposit by the end of the same term (or off-set against paid for elements) a child starts a Think2 funded placement.

What must a provider share in parent invoices?

Providers must clearly outline the amount of funded hours supplied to the child/ family for the period and monetary value of these hours. Providers must also clearly outline any charges the parent has to pay for e.g. additional hours, meals, services and other consumables.

What if a child stops attending/ does not attend for the funded hours as agreed or leaves the provision?

For absence or sporadic attendance; providers are not required to inform the council until a child has reached 20 full days of absence (whether over consecutive or sporadic days), or 40%* absence within a single term.

* When the child attendance is inconsistent but absence is not for full days e.g. child is consistently leaving early or being dropped off late for EEF sessions.

The provider must inform the EEF Finance Team when the 21st day (or 41%) of absence has occurred within the term.

Upon reviewing the reasons for absence and in line with the attendance policy, we will then determine if funding can be extended to cover continued absence. However, we have discretion to remove or adjust funding if there is no valid reason for absence that has gone beyond the aforementioned parameters of absence.

Providers are encouraged to discuss with parents about the importance of children attending for the hours that have been claimed for the child, otherwise adjusted funding for absence could mean the parent will incur further costs for childcare. Providers must refer to the Staffordshire attendance policy.

If a child leaves the provision outright; the provider can inform the EEF Finance team or the provider must reflect the leaving date in the appropriate amendment task for the term. Any overclaims will be taken back by us as funding will always follow the child. Unfortunately, due to the many variables and the fact the funded hours belong to the child, we will not pay for breaches of notices periods by parents. This is a private matter between parents and the childcare provider to resolve.

Providers must review the section for compliance and absence in the current Staffordshire provider agreement (section 15).

Where can I find all information or guidance on using the EY portal, validating 30 hour codes, processing headcounts, dashboard, statements, payment and headcount dates, EYPP and the attendance?

All the above can be found on our provider funding page which includes information on the early years portal where you validate 30 hour codes, process headcount tasks etc.

Quick link for EY portal and guidance notes.

Useful information and resources to use

Below you will find the new early education funding leaflet that outlines the key elements of funded hours, a matrix describing what parents might get to help with childcare costs and a Childcare Choices leaflet that providers can use to advertise offering 30 hours:

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