THE government has rolled out a new childcare scheme and parents have been urged to check if they and their children qualify for it.
Currently, working parents can apply for 15 free hours per week of nursery childcare for their three and four-year-old children, but this has been doubled to 30 hours as part of the government’s childcare shake-up.
3 The new government scheme is being implemented to help parents in the world of workCredit: Getty Images
Who is eligible for the 30 hours free childcare scheme?
The offer only applies to working parents in England with three and four-year-old children.
To be eligible, you’ll need to earn a certain amount each week – equal to 15 hours at the National Minimum Wage.
Parents over 25 will need to earn £120 per week each, while 21 to 24-year-old parents will need to make £112.80 per week. Apprentices in their first year need to earn £56 per week.
This offer applies to self-employed parents, as well as contracted parents and those on a zero-hour contract.
Why was the scheme introduced?
The government website makes clear that the scheme is designed for parents who need childcare so they can work.
Research from comparethemarket.com of more than 2,000 parents revealed just over half of parents are aware of the scheme.
A quarter fear the policy could lead to a decline in the quality of childcare services provided.
And there are fears the policy could negatively impact those who are not eligible – as nurseries may have to increase their fees.
3 The new scheme will be rolled out to parents with young kidsCredit: PA:Press Association
Does the scheme cover childcare all year round?
The free childcare will only cover 38 weeks of the year, rather than the full 52.
It also only covers time during normal working hours, between 6am and 8pm.
How many hours can you claim per day?
There’s a daily cap on free hours which prevents you from claiming more than ten free hours on any given day.
However, childcare providers may further limit the number of free hours they accept at given times.
It’s also worth noting that the funding also cannot be used at more than two childcare providers in one day.
3 You’ll need to log back on to confirm that you are still eligible every three monthsCredit: Alamy
What happens if I lose my job?
If you stop meeting the criteria for the free 30 hours, you’ll still receive the full funding for a grace period, which will need to be discussed with your childcare provider.
When that runs out, you’ll still be able to receive the base 15 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds.
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What could exclude me from the scheme?
Parents with an annual income of more than £100,000 will not qualify for free childcare.
If either guardian is a non-EEA national and subject to immigration control, they are also unable to gain access to public funds.
It was reported at the start of the scheme a third of nurseries could go out of business as the new plan could leave them out of pocket.
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