Working parents entitlement

Working families who meet the eligibility criteria can claim up to 30 hours of childcare per week. Currently this entitlement is available for 3 -to 4-year-olds who meet the criteria, however from April 2024 this will be expanded as follows:

  • From April 2024, eligible working parents of 2-year-olds can access 15 hours funded early education and childcare (over 38 weeks a year) from the term after their child's second birthday.
  • From Sept 2024, eligible working parents of children aged 9 months up to 3-year-olds can access 15 hours funded early education and childcare (over 38 weeks a year) from the term following their child turning 9 months.
  • From Sept 2025, the offer will be rolled out in full, with eligible working parents of children aged 9 months and above able to access 30 hours funded early education and childcare (over 38 weeks a year) from the term following their child turning 9 months.

To use your working parents' entitlement from April 2024 you need to apply for your eligibility code by 31 March 2024 (recommended time to apply is between 15 January and 28 February 2024).

Applications must be made through the HMRC's Childcare Choices website. If you already have a tax-free childcare account, your code will be generated at your next re-confirmation prior to the 31 March 2024. If you're unable to apply online or have any problems with the application process, please contact HMRC's Childcare Service Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097 for support.

Please remember you need to renew your code every 3 months to continue claiming the funding.


Below is a list of our most frequently asked questions about the working parents' entitlement.


Who will be eligible to receive the working parents' entitlement?

Currently, 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents meet the below criteria are able to access an additional 15 funded hours on top of the universal hours available for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

From April 2024, the eligibility criteria below will remain the same, however the age range will expand in phases as detailed above.

Funded hours will be available where both parents (or the sole parent in a lone parent family):

  • are working and earn on average a weekly minimum amount equivalent to working 16 hours at either National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW)
  • have an adjusted net income of less than £100,000 each per year
  • live in England (parents who are non-EEA nationals must have recourse to public funds to qualify)

You may still be eligible to apply if you or your partner:

  • are taking paid time off work, such as maternity leave, paternity leave or sick leave
  • are temporarily away from England for a period of up to 6 months, such as on military duty

You can also apply if either you or your partner are employed or self-employed and one of you gets one or more of the following benefits:

  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit or Long-Term Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • National Insurance Credits because of incapacity or limited capability for work
  • You've been assessed as having limited capability for work for Universal Credit purposes

How can I check if I am eligible?

You can check your eligibility for the working parents' entitlement through the Childcare Choices website or by using the Childcare calculator. These will also show if you can get any additional government help with childcare costs.

If you meet the eligibility criteria for the entitlement you should also qualify for Tax-Free Childcare, which can be used to help pay for any additional childcare costs. You can apply for this and the working parent's entitlement at the same time through the Childcare Choices website.


Do I need to be working 16 hours a week to qualify?

The eligibility checker has been designed to accommodate parents with fluctuating incomes, such as seasonal workers, those on zero hours and the self-employed. So, you do not need to actually work 16 hours every week but your earnings over the next 3 months must be equivalent to the amount you would earn if you worked 16 hours a week at either the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW).


If I am eligible when can I apply?

If your child will be two or over by the 31 March 2024 you can apply now through the Childcare Choices website. Parents wishing to access the working parents' entitlement must apply before the deadline dates as below:

Start receiving funding from

You must have obtained a code by:

1 January

31 December

1 April

31 March

1 September

31 August

We strongly recommend that you apply for the entitlement in advance of the application deadline date in case of delay in establishing eligibility.

If you're unable to apply online or have any problems with the application process you can contact the Childcare Service Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097 for support. If you disagree with the eligibility outcome, you will be able to use the HMRC's review and appeals process.

Once your eligibility is confirmed you will be given an 11 digit 'eligibility code'. You can find this in your gov.uk childcare service account and in your 'secure messages'.

You will need to take your eligibility code, National Insurance number and child's date of birth to your chosen childcare provider. They will ask you to complete and sign a 'Funded Childcare Eligibility Form' to give them consent to check and confirm your eligibility through Surrey's Funded Early Education Portal.

You will need to reconfirm your eligibility every three months to continue claiming the funded hours. You should receive a prompt from the HMRC to remind you to do this. However, it is advisable to make a note of your renewal date yourself to make sure you don't miss the deadline and lose out on your funding. If you completed your original application over the phone you will need to contact the Customer Interaction Centre to reconfirm.

You do not need to apply through the childcare service if you only want to use the universal 15 hours of Funded early education and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds or want to apply for Funded early education for two year olds (FEET).


What happens if I no longer meet the eligibility criteria?

If your family no longer meets the criteria, the Funded Early Education Team at Surrey County Council will inform your childcare provider as soon as possible, they will then advise you that you have fallen out of eligibility. Your code will no longer be valid to use to claim funding and you will need to discuss options with your childcare provider, this is likely to mean having to pay privately for hours that were previously being claimed for. Please check your childcare provider's terms and conditions.

However, prior to the above, there will be a grace period until the start of the next funded period to give you the opportunity to regain employment and reconfirm your code. Your childcare provider will be able to check this for you on Surrey's Funded Early Education Portal. If your circumstances change during the grace period, you can reapply again and continue to receive the funded hours without any change.


If I am eligible when can my child start to receive the working parent's entitlement?

If your child is eligible, the earliest they will be able to receive the funding is the funded period after they turn the relevant age. These periods are set by the Department of Education rather than following school term dates.

Child turns relevant age Can receive the funded hours from
1 September to 31 December 1 January (with valid code)
1 January to 31 March 1 April (with valid code)
1 April to 31 August 1 September (with valid code)

If you continue to meet the eligibility criteria, your child can receive the funding until they start reception class at a local authority maintained school. This will usually be the September following their fourth birthday.

However, if you choose to defer their school start date or they start at a non-maintained (independent) school they can continue to receive the funding until they reach statutory school age, which is the funded period after their fifth birthday.

Please note: If your child has a delayed start to their school place during the autumn funded period they cannot claim their funded entitlement. This is because the school will receive the funding from the beginning of the term, even if they are only attending part time.


When can my child use the entitlement hours?

These hours will usually be offered as 15 or 30 hours each week for 38 weeks a year. The funded early education hours may only be available within set times and sessions so you will need to speak to your childcare provider to see if the hours they offer suit your needs.

However, you won't be able to:

  • have any time before 6am or after 8pm
  • have a session longer than 10 hours
  • claim more than 15/30 hours a week
  • claim more than 570/1140 hours per year
  • use the funding at more than two sites in one day

Childcare providers can only claim funded hours for 38 weeks per year but may choose to stretch these hours themselves to offer these across more weeks of the year. If this would suit you better speak to the childcare provider to see if they are able to offer you a more flexible option.

Once your child starts at a childcare provider, you must be aware that:

  • There are a maximum number of funded hours you can claim in a period. You should discuss this with your early years provider.
  • The number of hours a child can stretch depends on the hours they are entitled to and which period they start claiming from, as well as the number of weeks the provider is open. You should discuss this with your early years provider.
  • If your provider is stretching funded hours across the year and your child leaves mid-way through the year, they may not receive their full funded entitlement. This should be included in the terms and conditions you sign when accepting your childcare place.
  • At certain points of the year, it may be that your childcare provider has offered more funded hours than they have been able to claim. In this situation, they may need to invoice you for these additional hours. This would be at the provider's standard charge and they would make this clear in their terms and conditions.
  • If you would like to change between receiving your hours term time and stretched, this would be at your childcare providers discretion. If they choose to allow you to change from taking term time hours to stretched hours during the year, they must make you aware that you may not receive your full years allocation.

Do I need to pay anything towards a funded place?

Childcare providers are not allowed to charge parents a 'top-up' fee (the difference between their usual fee and the funding they receive from the local authority to deliver funded places) as per section 12 of Surrey's Provider Agreement 2024 (see files available to download below).

However, they can set the times that they offer the funded hours. This means, for example, three hours of funded early education could sit within a three-and-a-half hour session. So, because you would essentially be taking time outside of the funded hours, a childcare provider could charge for this additional time, even if less than your entitlement is being used. They can also set their own rates for any additional time or extra services including snacks, lunch, trips, or music classes etc; they should let you know in advance what you will be expected to pay.

You should receive an invoice from your childcare provider at least once each funded period clearly showing what you are being asked to pay for. If you think that you are being charged for your child's funded early education hours or are being invoiced incorrectly you should speak to your childcare provider in the first instance. If you are still unsure. then you could contact us via eycommissioningteam@surreycc.gov.uk and we can ask the team who administer the funding to check your invoice.


Can I use the working parent's entitlement with more than one childcare provider?

Yes. However, you must not exceed 15/30 funded hours a week or use it at more than two sites a day. Remember to get your eligibility code checked by all the childcare providers you use. You must let your childcare providers know if you are taking up funding at more than one. You will need to sign and confirm which hours are being taken where on the Parental Declaration Form which needs to be completed at the start of each funded period.


Do I have to use the full 15/30 hours?

No, you can use as many hours as you need to meet your needs. Be aware however that providers can set a minimum attendance pattern at their setting and can cap the number of funded hours per day. As a result of this, you may be required to use a certain number of hours to attend a particular setting.


Can foster parents claim the funding for their foster children?

Foster parents may apply for an eligibility code via Surrey County Council. However, this needs to be consistent with the care plan for the foster child or children listed in the application.

To qualify for the funding you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are a single parent foster family and engage in paid work outside of your role as a foster parent.
  • You are a two-parent foster family and you both engage in paid work outside your roles as foster parents. If your partner is not a foster parent, then they must be in qualifying paid work and earn a minimum of the equivalent of 16 hours at national minimum/national living wage.
  • If in receipt of carer's allowance, please discuss eligibility with the Early Years Commissioning Team on eycommissioningteam@surreycc.gov.uk.

How to apply:

  • Speak to your foster child's social worker before applying. If they agree, you will need to complete a working parents entitlement children in foster care application form (contact eycommissioningteam@surreycc.gov.uk for a copy of the form).
  • Once you and your partner, if applicable, have completed the form and signed the declaration, the Social Worker's manager must countersign the form.
  • The Fostering Team Manager will need to see financial evidence and countersign the form.
  • Then the form must be sent to eycommissioningteam@surreycc.gov.uk for review and an eligibility code to be issued.

If your application is successful, you will be given an 11-digit eligibility code to take to your childcare provider. You will need to reconfirm this every three months with the early years commissioning team to continue receiving the funding.

You can find additional information about applying and using the funding within the application form.


Where can I find further information about the funding?

Surrey County Council's Provider Agreement explains the process childcare providers must agree to follow to be able to claim funded early education at their setting.

Childcare Choices, government help with childcare costs for parents. Whether you have toddlers or teens, you could get support.

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