Provider FAQs for funded places
These 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 signed which outlines the conditions and parameters of offering funded places.
- Provider agreement 2020-2021 (442 KB) -
- Please note - this current agreement is currently being rolled on a termly basis until the DFE update its guidance. The addendum advises on some update to procedural changes. Addendum 2022 - 23 (279 KB)
What is the criteria for 2 year funding (Think2) and how do families apply?
Families must meet the criteria and make an application.
Families can now check eligibility and apply via the new Citizen Portal. Providers can also perform an Assisted Application with parent's consent. If a child is confirmed as eligible through an assisted application, providers can use the 'application reference number' to immediately make the Placement via their EY Portal account.
Further guidance is available for the EY Portal process.
When do 3 and 4 year olds become eligible for universal funded places?
When children turn 3 years old between:
- 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)
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, out of school club or a reception class of an independent school.
*Children cannot receive the funded hours if they attend a local authority or academy reception class as this is a full time school place.
Which 3 and 4 year olds could be eligible for 30 hours - the extended 15 hours?
Parents that meet the minimum earnings criteria as set by government cold be eligible. 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 but have carer responsibilities preventing them working.
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 to work (or if already at work) and if they meet the standard 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 apply online on the HMRC website - Childcare Choices. 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. Successful applicants will receive a confirmation letter from Staffordshire County Council with an 11 digit that begins '400'.
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 confirmation code.
- 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.
What must providers do when a parent gives them 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 check and confirm when the extended funded hours start date commences.
What is the 3 month check or 'reconfirmation' for 30 hours?
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.
Please note: parents can reconfirm their eligibility no earlier than 28 days before the eligibility end date.
What are grace periods?
Grace periods is the extra 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.
|Date Parent receives ineligible decision||Grace period end date|
|1 January – 10 February
|11 February – 31 March
|1 April – 26 May
|27 May – 31 August
|1 September – 21 October
|22 October – 31 December
Once the grace period has ended the child reverts to just being eligible for the universal 15 hours only.
What if a family want to start claiming the extended hours but are already 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 at a setting (even if parents have a code). Parents will need to reconfirm eligibility/ re-apply for the extended hours to commence; it will then be from the term after eligibility has been confirmed that parents will then receive the extended 15 hours.
Local authorities have some discretion to fund the extended hours for new starters who are in a grace period for the following reasons:
- the setting no longer meets the quality required to claim funding (rated inadequate),
- a parent is fleeing domestic abuse or other serious crime.
How much are providers paid for funded hours?
From Sept 2023, funding rates for PVI and governor run provision is as follows:
- 2 year olds (Think2) - £7.55 per hour, per child (a £1.88 increase from £5.67)
- 3 and 4 year olds - £4.86 per hour, per child. (a 0.34p increase from £4.52).
- Maintained Nursery Schools - 3 and 4 year olds - £4.86 per hour, per child. (a 0.34p increase from £4.52).
Additional deprivation supplement rates for 3 and 4 year olds only will be as follows:
- £0.20 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. Settings eligible for this could have an hourly rate of £5.06 per hour.
- £0.30 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. Settings eligible for this could have an hourly rate of £5.16 per hour.
In April 2023, it was confirmed the Contingency fund will continue, this is to mitigate financial risk and to manage any unforeseen budget variances as a result of changes in demand. This will be c. 0.7% of the overall budget. Any unused contingency will be returned to the sector in the following year (subject to affordability).
How can I offer the funded hours for families?
It is at the discretion of childcare providers to determine the days and times funding is offered. Providers must offer funding within the following parameters:
- no more than a maximum of 10 funded hours in a day
- 15 hours entitlements can be taken in no less than across 2 days
- 30 hour entitlements can be taken in no less than across 3 days
- no set minimum amount of funded hours that need to be offered in a single day.
- offered between the hours of 6:00am to 8:00pm - Monday to Friday
- can be offered at weekends
Over how many weeks of the year can funding be offered?
Providers can choose to offer funded hours as:
- across 38 weeks of the year - often aligned to school term times, but it does not have to be,
- 'stretch' offer which is over more weeks (than 38) of the year but for less funded hours per week as they are 'stretched' out,
- a mixture of both 38 weeks and stretch - providers can be flexible depending on the requirements of their families i.e. one child may have funding over 38 weeks, whereas another child could have funding as stretched.
Please note: a single child cannot be claimed as both 38 weeks and stretch, at the same setting/ site.
Additional guidance on flexibility:
- Parents can only change from 38 week / term time offer to stretched (or vice versa) at the beginning of a new term.
- Providers must supply funded hours in the same manner as they claim it. For example: if funding is claimed for a child as 38 weeks, this is how the funded hours must be given to the family. Similarly, providers who claim funding a stretched must give funding to families as stretched.
Important: Providers should keep track of funding used up by a child when changing from stretch to term time funding or when a child has moved from another setting.
There could occasions when a child could use up their entitlement before the full year is up.
- as some terms use up significantly more hours depending on the offer supplied by the setting, it means there could be occasion when children changing from 'stretch' to '38 weeks' would use up funding earlier in the third term of the 12 month period than if staying with just 'stretched' or as '38 weeks' through the whole year.
- child claimed for the full entitlement as stretched in spring and summer terms and moved to a 38 week offer in autumn, the entitlement will have been used before the end of term/ by early December
- child had stretch in summer term and moved to a 38 week offer in autumn, child will have used their entitlement by early March of the following spring term.
- In cases when a child uses up their annual entitlement earlier than normal, parents will have pay if they wish to attend for any weeks where the provider does not offer funding, or the child's entitlement as run out in the 12th month.
Children cannot exceed the 570 hours entitlement (or 1140 hours for 30 hours) in any rolling 12 month period.
How could 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.
How are the funded hours paid?
Full details of term and payments funding is used can be found on our advice page.
Funding can be supplied and claimed as follows:
- Spring term (1 January to 31 March) - '38 week' offer 11 Weeks / 'Stretch' offer 12 Weeks
- Summer term (1 April to 31 August) - '38 week' offer 13 Weeks / 'Stretch' offer 20 Weeks
- Autumn term (1 September to 31 December) - '38 week' offer 14 Weeks / 'Stretch' offer 16 Weeks
Funding offer in hours.
- The standard offer is calculated over 38 weeks can be claimed as:
> Universal/ Think2 offer - 15 hours per week
> 30 hours - 30 hours per week
- The stretch offer is often calculated over 48 weeks as:
> universal hours/ Think2 - 11.88 hours per week
> 30 hours at 23.75 hours per week
*Please note - families do not have to take up their full entitlement of hours.
Find details of the headcount and payment dates
Can parents choose 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 provider/s claim for what amount of hours and the parent has sole discretion as to which provider claims for the extended hours in a split arrangement.
How do providers identify the number of hours claimed at each provider and parent declaration forms?
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. These only need to be shared if requested by the council as part of a dispute or audit.
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 purchase and access additional services not covered by funded hours. This means so long as the *provider has the availability within the funded package of offer; a parent can choose that their child attends for just the funded hours.
If parents do require additional hours or consumables that are not funded, then providers can charge for these and the parent would expect to pay for these services. Providers should refer to clause 14 from page 25 in the current provider agreement.
*providers have the discretion on what days/ hours funding is offered.
Can a provider claim for a child's full entitlement even if the child is not attending for all of it?
No, providers can only claim for funded hours that have been agreed the child will attend for at the provision*. Parents are under no obligation to take up the full entitlement and may choose to use some hours with another provider. Providers can only claim from the date a child starts at the setting and is eligible for funded hours.
* Providers must supply funded hours from the outset of claiming for the child. Providers cannot hold back funding and charge parents in the meantime to then reimburse them at a later date (i.e. end of the term).
What can providers charge for and top ups?
Providers must inform parents from the outset how the funded hours can be accessed and offered to parents. Providers must also clearly inform parents what their fees are for non funded services and consumables if the parent wishes to have these.
Providers can charge for (not an exclusive list) food, snacks, transport, nappies, suncream, trips, extra activities, if these are accessed by the child. Parents must be advised of the charges from the outset of a funded place.
Difference between the rate the council pays and providers charge parents.
The government's legislation is clear the providers must not charge parents the difference between the rate the Council pays for a funded hour and what the provider charges per hour (calculated hourly rate), or for any additional service/ charge, or nor consumable that the child is not accessing.
This would be particularly relevant to children accessing just the funded hours who might a low income household or vulnerable (i.e. Think2) as this could lead to barriers in the child accessing funded hours.
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 some families i.e. Think2. Such a deposit can be kept if the child does not start the placement, but providers should reimburse a deposit (or off-set against paid for services) by the end of the same term a child starts a Think2 funded placement.
What information must a provider share to a parent in their invoices?
Providers must clearly outline the number of funded hours supplied to the child/ family for the invoice period and monetary value of those funded hours. Providers must also clearly outline any charges the parent has to pay for i.e. additional hours, meals, services and other consumables.
Providers showing funded hours in any invoice as 0, does not meet this requirement.
What if a child leaves / does not attend for the funded hours as agreed?
For absence or sporadic attendance; providers are not required to inform the council of absence (unless there is a welfare concern) until a child has reached 20 full days of absence (whether over consecutive or sporadic days), or 40%* absence within a single term.
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, the Council will then determine if funding can be extended to cover continued and legitimate reasons for absence. However, we have discretion to remove or adjust funding if there is no valid reason for absence that has gone beyond the 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. Providers can refer to the Staffordshire attendance policy ref absence.
If a child leaves the provision outright; the provider can inform the EEF Team, or the provider must reflect the leaving date in the next amendment or actual task for the term. Any overclaims will be claimed back by the Council as funding will always follow the child.
What if a parent breaches the notice period set by the provider?
Unfortunately, due to the many variables and the fact the funded hours belong to the child, we will not pay for breaches of notice periods by parents as this is private business that local authorities cannot be involved with.
Providers should 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 claiming hours, policy, provider agreement, forms etc?
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, parent declaration, agreements etc.
Quick link for EY portal and guidance notes.