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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 in autumn 2019 which outlines the full regulations and conditions when offering funded childcare places and is appended to the DfE Statutory Guidance.

  • Provider agreement 2020-2021 (442 KB) - 
    • Please note - this current agreement has been extended by addendum to cover 1 September 2022 - 31 August 2023. The addendum also 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 from the term a child turns 2 years old. Providers can also perform an Assisted Application with parents' consent instead of them applying. If a child is confirmed eligible through an assisted application, providers can use the 'application reference number' to immediately make the Placement via their EY Portal at any time, even outside of a task and if the child is not starting until the following term.

This info will then be available on the Headcount, so there is no need to re-enter. Further guidance is available

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 reception class of an independent school.

*Children cannot receive the funded hours if they attend a state 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?

All parents in the household must be in employment and meet at least the minimum earnings criteria as set by government. 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.

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 code from HMRC* for the extended hours (* or 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.

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, this will be stated on the HMRC* confirmation that parents receive (* foster carers will receive letter from the local authority). 

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. Staffordshire County Council do not check eligibility or issue codes based on economic criteria.

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

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.

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 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 (even if they had a code) at a setting. Parents will need to reconfirm eligibility/ re-apply for the extended hours to commence; it will then be from the term after new eligibility has been confirmed that parents will then receive the extended 15 hours.

However, local authorities have no discretion to fund the extended hours for families who are in a grace period for the following i.e.

  • the setting no longer meets the quality required to claim funding (are inadequate),
  • a parent is fleeing domestic abuse or other serious crime.

How much are providers paid for funded hours from April 2022?

  • 2 year olds (Think2) - £5.47 per hour, per child (up from £5.26 in 2021/22)
  • 3 and 4 year olds - £4.26 per hour, per child. (up from £4.10 in 2021/22)

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 £4.46 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 £4.56 per hour.

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. 0.8% of the overall budget (the same as 2021/22). 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 how funded places are offered which includes the days and time it is on offer, this must be determied 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 a child cannot be claimed by the same provider as both '38 weeks' and 'stretched' in the same term.

Parents can only change from 38 week or term time to stretched (or vice versa) at the beginning of a new term.

Important: Providers should keep track of funding used when changing from stretch to term time funding or when a child has movd from another setting, as there could occasions when a child parent uses up their annual entitlement before the full year (rolling 12 months) is up e.g.

  • child had stretched in spring and summer terms and moved to 38 week offer in autumn, the entitlement will have been used before the end of term/ early December
  • child had stretched in summer term and moved to 38 week offer in autumn, child will have used entitlement by early March of the following spring term.
  • so, as some terms use up significantly more hours depending on the offer supplied by the setting, it does mean there could be occasions 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.

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 is paid at follows:

  • Autumn term  - Universal 210 hours / Stretched 420 hours
  • Spring term - Universal 165 hours / Stretched 330  hours
  • Summer term - Universal  195 hours /  Stretched 390 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 number of hours and the parent that 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?

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 childcare provision.

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 and access additional non-funded elements. 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 that are not funded, or any other elements or consumables the provider charges for, then the parent would pay for these services. Providers should refer to clause 14 from page 25 in the 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 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 use some hours with another provider. Providers can only claim from the date a child starts with at the provision and is eligible for funded hours.

* Providers must supply the funded places 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 are accessed and offered to parents. Providers must also clearly inform parents that when children attend for additional hours that are not funded and what those charges will be.

Providers can charge for food, snacks, transport, nappies, suncream and another other additional service or consumables if these are accessed by the child. Parents must be advised of the charges from the outset of a funded place. 

*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 addtional service nor consumable that the child is not accessing. This would be particularly relevant to children accessing just he funded hours who are part of low income household or vulnerable as this could lead to barriers in 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 disadvantaged family 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 elements) 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. 

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.

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 taken 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 notices periods by parents as this is part private business lack local authorities can not be involved with.

Providers can 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, hard copies of form 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 declarations etc.

Quick link for EY portal and guidance notes.

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