Currently, all three and four-year-old children receive up to 15 hours free early education a week, generally over 38 weeks of the year.
From September 2017, as part of the Childcare Act 2016, the government will increase this free entitlement to 30 hours a week.
This is for working parents, based on 38 weeks per year, and the hours can be stretched and fewer hours used each week over more weeks as you currently can.
Watch our short videos providing information on each type of childcare you can access.
Will my child qualify for the additional hours?
You will qualify if:
- both parents are working (or sole parent in a lone-parent family) and each parent earns on average:
- a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) if aged under 25 or national living wage (NLW) if aged over 25
- less than £100,000 per year
- both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily on parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave or statutory sick pay
- one parent is employed and the other parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring
- one parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits.
You do not need to actually work 16 hours per week, but your earnings must equal at least 16 hours work at minimum wage/national living wage.
This is equal to a minimum income of £115.20 per week (over 25 years) or £107.20 per week (21-24 years).
A parent will be eligible if they expect to earn this amount on average over the coming three months. For example, if a parent has a zero-hours contract, they qualify if they work two weeks out of every three and work 25 hours at the minimum wage.
Parent means a person who has parental responsibility for the child. In cases where a parent has remarried or is living with a partner, the step-parent or partner must also meet the earning threshold.
As a foster carer, you are only eligible for the extended entitlement for your own children if you meet the criteria. You are not eligible for children that you foster.
Where can I access my child’s place?
In Gateshead, free entitlement places will be available in:
- schools and academies with a nursery class
- maintained nursery schools
- day nurseries
Flexibility - taking up the extended entitlement
If you are eligible for the extended entitlement, you can take up to 1,140 hours free childcare across the year. You do not have to take the full amount. This is to be used term time only or stretched across the year.
- up to 30 hours per week across 38 weeks per year or (term time offer)
- up to 22.25 hours per week across 51 weeks of the year (stretched offer)
Not all providers can provide the stretched offer. The full 30 hours per week, or the particular pattern of provision you need, can be split across more than one provider.
Depending on the provision you choose, you will be able to access your free childcare:
- between 6am - 8pm
- up to a maximum of ten free hours per day, 30 hours per week
- across a maximum of three providers, across a maximum of two sites per day
Are there any additional charges?
If you take more than 30 hours per week or 1140 hours per year, there will be a charge from the provider for the additional hours. Check with your provider for details and for any other additional charges such as for meals, snacks or additional services.
When can my child start?
Children can start from the term following their third birthday until, providing they stay eligible, they start full-time education. This is usually in the September following their fourth birthday. Contact the provider for their term start dates and to arrange settling-in sessions.
I live outside of Gateshead. Can my child attend a Gateshead provision?
Any child can access their free entitlement in a Gateshead provision. You do not need to be a Gateshead resident.
How do parents apply?
The additional hours will be available from September 2017. You can apply through HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
If eligible, HMRC will issue a voucher code for you to take to the childcare provider.
You will need to re-confirm eligibility every three months via the HMRC. If your situation changes, you will receive notice within six weeks or half a term.
During this time, your child will keep the additional hours. Eligibility will be checked again at the end of this period, and if still not eligible, you will no longer receive the additional hours.
Do providers have to offer the extended hours?
No, some providers will not be able to deliver the offer, perhaps due to restrictions on their premises. Others may choose to remain as sessional care.
Individual providers do not have to offer the full day and can select their opening hours to meet local need. They may wish to work in partnership with other providers to make a full day. You are able to access the entitlement across at most three different providers.
What can I do now to make sure my child gets a place?
We can supply a list of providers currently offering free entitlement places. You should contact individual providers to find out more about them and arrange visits. You will need to find out how to apply for a place with each individual provider.
HMRC cannot check your eligibility for the extended entitlement yet. Based on the criteria listed above, you can give the provider an indication of whether you are likely to be eligible when applying for a place. Some providers are waiting for further information before deciding to offer 30-hour places, so may not yet be in a position to guarantee you a place.
My child has special needs. How will this affect my child’s entitlement?
All families should have access to high quality, flexible childcare. The Government has consulted on changes to the funding arrangements. We are waiting for guidelines designed to ensure that providers have the resources to support the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities.