Childcare choices – apply for your 30 hours of free childcare
20 December 2017
Government is encouraging eligible working parents of three and four year olds living in England to apply for their 30 hours of free childcare as soon as possible.
HMRC sometimes needs more information to check whether a parent is eligible so not all parents can get a code straight away, hence the encouragement to apply as soon as possible.
Existing parents should remember that they must reconfirm their eligibility for 30 hours every 3 months.
HMRC has produced a new parent communications toolkit, to provide further information to parents about 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare. The toolkit includes information on:
- Customer journey infographics for both 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare
- ‘Top things parents and providers should know’ Q&A
- A factsheet for parents on how they can use their 30 hours’ entitlement
- Pre-drafted emails to parents and providers to inform them of the application deadline and reconfirmations
- A glossary for parents and providers to help explain key words associated with 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare
HMRC has provided us with a set of FAQs on application and reconfirmation:
Q. When should a parent apply for 30 hours free childcare?
A. Parents should apply as soon as possible. Not all parents can get a code straight away – HMRC sometimes needs more information to check whether a parent is eligible.
Q. How does a parent apply for a place?
A. They can apply for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours via www.childcarechoices.gov.uk. They will need their:
- National Insurance number
- Personal details. For example from a UK passport or driving licence
In most cases, a parent will be told instantly if their application is successful. For some parents, we will need additional information to find out whether they are eligible. We will contact them within 7 working days to request this. This is why parents should apply in good time. If a parent is found ineligible we will tell them why they're not eligible.
Q. If a parent has difficulties when applying, what should they do?
A. If a parent is having difficulties applying, they should contact the childcare service helpline on 0300 123 4097. The helpline is available from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm on Saturday, and 10am to 4pm on Sunday.
Q. When do parents need to reconfirm?
A. Parents need to confirm their details are up to date for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare every three months; this is known as reconfirmation.
If parents reconfirm and they’re no longer eligible, miss their reconfirmation deadline, or choose not to reconfirm, they will receive a message telling them that their eligibility has lapsed. If their child has started a 30 hours place, they will be able to continue their 30 hours childcare for a limited period known as the ‘grace period’. They should still reconfirm so that they can receive 30 hours for the following term. Parents can also continue to use their TFC childcare account, but will not receive the government top-up.
If a parent misses their reconfirmation deadline, they will still be able to reconfirm through their childcare service account.
Q. What is a grace period and how does it work?
A. If parents confirm their details and are: no longer eligible, misses the reconfirmation deadline, or chooses not to reconfirm and their child has started a 30 hours place, they will be able to retain their 30 hours free childcare for a limited period known as the grace period. Once the grace period has lapsed, they should be entitled to the universal 15 hour entitlement.
If a child becomes ineligible during the first half of a term, they will be funded until the end of that term. If they become ineligible after half term, they will be funded until the next half term. Specific dates are listed in the department’s statutory guidance (from page 10).
Local authorities should complete an audit check on eligibility codes at six fixed points in the year, as set out in the table of local authority audit dates in the Department of Education’s Statutory Guidance. These audits will enable local authorities to determine which parents are still eligible, and which parents are now in their grace period. Local authorities are expected to pass on this information to the relevant providers as part of this audit process.
Q. How will parents know when they need to confirm their details are up to date (reconfirm)?
A. The “reconfirmation” section of a parent’s online childcare account will show the earliest date that they can reconfirm, which is 28 days before the deadline. If they reconfirm on time, their eligibility end date extends by three months. If a parent reconfirms after the deadline, this date will be when their eligibility restarts.
Parents will receive an email reminding them to reconfirm four weeks before their reconfirmation deadline. If they still haven’t reconfirmed they will receive another email two weeks before their reconfirmation deadline, and a notification email the day after their eligibility has lapsed if they don’t reconfirm.
Q. Why did HMRC issue parents with temporary codes?
A. We issued temporary codes to those parents who were having technical issues with the service on/before the 31 August deadline. This was to ensure that they could receive their 30 hours free childcare from September. These codes will expire three months after issue.
Q. What should parents with temporary codes do for the January term?
A. After their temporary code has expired, parents will need to apply through the digital service and receive their permanent 30 hours code before the start of the January term. We will write to all parents with a temporary code and provide them with instructions on how to do this.