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How can I check if I am eligible and how to apply?

You can check eligibility, find out when you can apply and make an application on our main page for Think2 (2 year funded places)

What do I do after I create my Citizen Portal account?

There is guidance (366 KB) on how to create your Citizen Portal. Once you have created your account and verified your email address:

  • click on the ‘Apply for 2 year old funding’ button.
  • On the next screen click ‘Add Child’ and add the information requested.
  • Then, click on ‘Start a new application’ on your child’s tile. You can start an application any time during the term of your child's second birthday or later.

If your child is entitled to a funded place, you will receive a confirmation message on your Citizen Portal account which includes an application reference number which you can then print or save. Take this application reference number to your chosen childcare provider.

How long before I know if my application was successful?

Almost instantly if you apply under the income criteria. 

If you were not successful but feel you meet the eligibility criteria, click the 'Request for Help' button on your application and add your contact details. Our team can then contact you to try and help complete your application.

For all other non-income criteria based applications, we will aim to complete these within 5 working days.

How can I print my eligibility confirmation?

In the Citizen Portal account, simply log on and select ‘Applications’ on the Home screen > then select ‘Messages’ from the drop down menu. Select the message you want by double clicking it and then you can print by right clicking and choosing ‘Print’.

If someone did your application on your behalf and you did not receive your confirmation, contact  our team 

What happens if a Childrens Centre, main library or childcare setting check my eligibility for me?

If checks show that you are eligible, the Childrens Centre, Library or childcare provider can print your eligibility confirmation for you or forward it to you if you have a valid email address.

How many hours is a funded place for?

Eligible children are entitled for up to 15 hours a week of funded childcare across 38 weeks a year. But some childcare settings may be able to spread the full entitlement of 570 hours (a year) over more weeks than 38 but for less (than 15 ) hours per week. 

What type of setting can my child attend for a two year funded place?

Your child can attend a setting that is registered to take 2 year funded places, such as: childminder, nursery, pre-school and some school based settings.

How can I find childcare?

You can search for childcare through our website Staffordshire Connects. 

*Please contact our helpful team if you cannot find a childcare setting in your area

What happens if I get back into work and no longer claim the benefits listed?

 Your child’s funded will not stop even if your situation changes. The 15 hours then automatically roll into the universal 15 hours that all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to from the term after turning three years old.

What happens if I move out of the area or want my child to go to a childcare setting not in Staffordshire?

We cannot fund two year olds that are attending childcare providers outside of Staffordshire. You will need make an application to the council for the area that the childcare setting is located in to confirm eligibility and funding.

What if I live outside of Staffordshire but my child goes to a childcare setting in Staffordshire?

Parents will need to make an application with Staffordshire to confirm eligibility. 

What do I do if I have applied to another Local Authority but wish to access my funded hours at a Staffordshire setting?

You will need to create a Citizens Portal account but instead of making an two year funded application, choose Option 2. The next screen will ask you to upload a copy of the eligibility voucher you received from the other Local Authority. Once our team have reviewed your application you will receive a message on your Citizen Portal account so please check your account regularly. 

What happens when my child turns 3 years old?

All 3 and 4 year olds will get the universal 15 hours from term after they turn three years old without having to meet any criteria. So, there will be no gap from your 2 year funding into the universal 15 hours and you don’t need to do anything. 

Some parents of 3 and 4 year olds may also be entitled to additional 15 hours to make up to 30 hours per week, find out more via Childcare Choices.

What if I receive Tax Credits or Universal Credit or claim Tax Free Childcare?

Some parents get help with childcare costs through the childcare element of Working Tax Credits (WTC) or Universal Credit (UC) which is paid by HMRC; this is a means tested allowance which can pay up to a maximum of 75%  85% of the childcare costs for one child.

Parents of funded 2 year olds cannot claim WTC or UC element on any of the funded hours a child receives, as these hours are already paid in full on your behalf. However, if a parent has additional charges to pay for, then parents can claim  WTC and UC on anything they pay for.

Working parents also have the option to pay into the government Tax Free Childcare scheme to help with additional costs. Go to Childcare Choices for more information and to apply.

Can I access just the funded hours only and what about 'top ups'?

Yes, parents have a right for their child to just access funded hours only without incurring any additional charges, but funded hours may only be supplied for certain hours and days of the week which are determined by the setting - but ask your childcare provider for details. But parents are under no obligation to access non-funded hours, consumables or services just to access funded hours.

Settings must also not charge a 'top up' which is the difference between the rate they charge and the rate they are paid. 

What if I wish to take up non funded hours or services at a childcare setting?

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

What about deposits and registration fees?

Settings 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). A deposit can be kept by the setting 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.

How can my child attend for the funded hours?

Parents must speak to their childcare setting about how the funded places can be taken at the provision and this must be made clear to parents.  Settings can offer funding as:

  • 38 weeks which could during term time or across school holidays, 
  • across the whole year which is called a ‘stretched offer’.

How settings offer funded hours is at their discretion within the following parameters.

  • 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

Does my child need to attend for the full 15 hours?

No. Parents are under no obligation to access the full 2 year funded entitlement of 15 hours per week.

Can I take funded hours at more than one setting?

Yes, Parents can split funded hours between multiple settings, but no more than at two sites in one day. This can be between any type of provider including school based provision. 

Do I have to sign anything for funded hours with my setting?

Yes, for the funded hours it is a legal requirement that all families must sign the Parental Declaration form that will be provided to you by your childcare setting. 

In the case of the child being eligible for 30 hours and a split arrangement, 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.

Can my child change setting in the middle of term?

Yes, you can change setting at any time*. Funding will follow your child to their new setting, who can then claim from when your child starts with them. Your new setting may request proof of eligibility which you can access via your Citizen Portal account.

*Parents are urged to check on the notice period of their provider before moving the child out of the setting.

What else must settings do before the child starts their funded place?

Settings must provide parents from the outset of the placement with information on how their child’s funded place will be supplied to them i.e. hours/ days it can be taken, as well as clearly informing parents about additional charges on non-funded hours, consumables and services.

I do not understand if I am receiving the funding as agreed.

Parents should speak to their setting in the first instance as in most cases such concerns can be resolved easily by the setting explaining their offer. Parents should request a clear breakdown of:

  • days and hours the funded hours/ place are 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
  • how funding is being provided -* 38 weeks / term time or stretched offer.

What about invoices and charges?

By legislation, settings must make it clear on invoices the number of funded hours and monetary value of those funded hours supplied / taken for the invoice period. Additional charges for non-funded hours, consumables and services must also be clearly outlined for in the period.

The setting must inform parents of the monetary value of a funded hour at their provision.

What if I wish to make a complaint?

If you are still 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 our Customer Feedback and Complaints Service.

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