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Frequently Asked Questions


All 3 and 4 years olds are entitled to a universal entitlement of 15 hours of early education per week (over 38 weeks, or 570 hours across more weeks of the year) at a registered or approved childcare provider. Most childcare providers offer funded places which could be at a: childminder, nursery, pre-school, school, local authority/academy or independent school based nurseries. 

Funding for the universal 15 hours will start from the term after the child’s 3rd birthday (as follows):

  • 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)

For example, if a child is 3 years old between 1st January - 31st March, they will be eligible for funded places from 1 April. These dates are fixed and independent of school term dates.

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 at some out of school club or any other type of early years provision registered for funding.

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


On top of the universal 15 hours, the government have released a new scheme from September 2017 where eligible families could receive an extra 15 hours of funded education per week, making 30 funded hours over 38 weeks ( or 1140 hours across more weeks of the year).

Working families must meet the criteria, to find the out more go to the HMRC website – section for 3 and 4 year olds: www.childcarechoices.gov.uk

NOTE: no money is passed to parents. Funding goes to your childcare provider who supplies the funded hours to families


Parents must make an online application through the HMRC website www.childcarechoices.gov.uk

A gateway account will be created for you and successful applicants will receive an 11 digit code. Parents must present this code to their childcare provider to claim the extended funded hours.

Anyone who has difficulty with the online application process, or does not agree that they are not eligible should contact the HMRC Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097.

Foster Carers

From September 2018, foster carers can apply for fostered children. 

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 your behalf.

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


The extended 15 hours can start  for eligible families from the term after a confirmation code has been received by parents from HMRC for an age eligible child.

  • Code received between: 1 January - 31 March, the extra 15 hours can start in the summer term (from 1 April) 

  • Code received between: 1 April - 31 August, the extra 15 hours can start in the autumn term (from 1 September)

  • Code received between: 1 September - 31 December, the extra 15 hours can start in the spring term (from 1 January)


Yes, approximately every 3 months HMRC will contact parents via text or email to remind them to log into their gateway account and confirm their circumstances and check eligibility again. If you do not do this, funding will cease after a grace period.

Foster Carers

Foster carers will be reminded every 3 months by the responsible local authority and not HMRC.


From September 2018 Foster Carers can apply for the extended 15 hours for fostered children so long as the 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 then commence from when eligibility has ended. The 'grace period' is an extra period that parents will continue to receive the full 30 hours so they can resolve the issue of why they have dropped out of eligibility, i.e. seek employment or reconfirming eligibility.
  • After the grace period has ended and the parents are still not eligible, the child will then revert to being able to claim a maximum of 15 hours per week
  • The extended hours cannot be claimed if a child moves or starts at a new childcare setting and is already in the grace period for the extended hours. Families will only be eligible for the universal 15 hours.

Parents must speak to their childcare provider about how the funded places can be taken at the provision. Providers can differ from the times in the day they are open and offer funded places. Providers can offer funding as 38 weeks during term time or school holidays, or across the whole year, which is called a ‘stretched offer’. Some providers may do both but it is at their discretion.

Below are the parameters providers can offer funded places within:

  • No more than a maximum of 10 hours in a day.
  • No minimum requirement.
  • Between the hours of 6.00am to 8.00pm - Monday to Friday.
  • at weekends.
  • For the universal 15 hours, the entitlement could be offered over no less than across 2 days.
  • For the full 30 hours, the entitlement could be offered over no less than across 3 days.

Speak to your provider about their offer.

Parents can choose that their child attends for just the funded hours, but only on the days and hours that are supplied by the provider and depending on their availability. Parents are under no obligation to purchase additional hours, food, nappies, trips, clothing or any other consumable or service just to gain access to funded hours.

Parents are under no obligation to use up all the funded hours their child is entitled too. It is at the parent’s discretion how many hours/ days they wish their child to attend within the provider’s offer. Providers can only claim for hours you have agreed for your child to attend with them.
Providers can charge for a deposit so parents can secure a placement, though providers should consider whether a charge should be applied to a family claiming 2 year funding (Think2). Such a deposit can be kept if the child did not start the place 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.

 Parent should not be charged a registration fee if a child is attending for the funded hours only. When parents are paying for extra hours or services it is possible a registration fee could be off-set against those paid for elements.


If your child does attend for hours that are not part of funded sessions supplied by the provider, you will be charged for these hours. Items such as food, nappies, trips clothing, other consumables and services, the provider is entitled to charge for if accessed by children. These charges are determined by the provider.


Some providers are open all year and may offer parents the option to ‘stretch’ funded hours. This means parents will have less funded hours per week but it would be spread over more weeks of the year (i.e. across school holidays). This offer is at the discretion of the provider and 38 week ( or term time only) only providers will not be able to offer stretched.

Yes, Parents can split funded hours between multiple providers, but no more than at two sites in one day. This can be between any type of provider. Parents will need to decide how many hours their child attends for at each site as providers must agree to this.

Yes, for the funded hours it is a legal requirement that all families must sign the Parental Declaration that will be provided to you by your childcare provider. On this form you will identify key aspects of you own personal information as well as your child’s. You will also need to advise how many hours you wish your provider to claim for your child.

In the case of the child being eligible for 30 hours and a split arrangement is in place to access the funded hours at more than one provider, the parent must identify which provider will claim the universal 15 hours.

Children must attend for the agreed amount of funded hours you have requested your provider/s  to claim, or the funded hours will be reduced or cease if non-attendance is a regular occurrence.


If you wish to change setting part way through a term, you can do so.  The funding will follow your child to their new provider.  It is the responsibility of the provider your child is leaving to inform the Local Authority that you child has left/is leaving - otherwise they would be 'over-claiming' on their part. The new provider can then claim from when your child starts with them.

Parents who change from a stretched offer ( in summer ) to a 38 week / term offer (in autumn) and are accessing the maximum entitlement, should be aware that their annual entitlement could end sooner than normal in the third term of the year. This is because of more funded hours are used in summer term as a stretched offer compared to a 38 week/ term time offer.

Parents are urged to check on the notice period of their provider before leaving

Yes, you can claim Tax Credits and Tax Free Childcare on hours, services and consumables you have to pay for, go to www.childcarechoices.gov.uk for more information. However you must inform HMRC if your circumstances change when claiming Tax Credits and Tax Free Childcare as you cannot get assistance for the hours which you are receiving the funded places.

Providers sign an agreement with their local authority, that outlines they must provide parents from the outset of the placement with information on how their child’s funded place will be supplied to them. Providers must also inform parents clearly for additional charges parents will incur on non-funded hours, consumables and services.


Providers must make it clear on invoices the amount of funded hours and monetary value of those funded hours supplied / taken for the invoice period. For additional charges for non-funded hours, consumables and services the provider must again clearly outline for what you have been charged for in the period.

This so parents can clearly identify they are receiving their child’s funded hours as initially agreed with the provider.

The provider must inform parents of the monetary value of a funded hour at their provision. But providers cannot charge top ups on the funded hours, this is the difference between the funding the provider receives and what they normally charge.


Parents should speak to their provider in the first instance as in most cases such issues can be cleared up easily. Parents should request a clear breakdown of:

  • days and hours the funded hours/ place is supplied to the child.
  • the charges you pay for i.e. non funded hours, meal, trips.
  • a monetary total of charges against what you have saved on funded places.
  • term time or stretched offer.

If you are unhappy that you are not receiving your child’s funded hours as agreed, you can email: eeac@staffordshire.gov.uk You must clearly outline the details of the enquire and any evidence (emails, invoices etc), the name of the childcare provider as well as supplying your child’s name and your own contact information. All enquiries are treated in confidence.

Enquiries will be reviewed and where possible an update will be provided in 20 working days from when relevant information was sent to the service. We may need to acquire further information that could result in it taking longer to resolve disputes.

If you are unsatisfied with the local authority you can contact the Staffordshire County Council’s Customer Feedback and Complaints Service.

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