Free childcare for three and four-year-olds

All three and four-year-olds are entitled to receive 15 hours per week (for 38 weeks per year) of Free Early Years Childcare from the term after they turn three. This is known as universal funding.

If your child attends for the 15 hours free entitlement only, you should not be charged any fees. However, providers may apply a small charge towards lunch or snacks, consumables or additional activities (ie trips). If your child attends more than the 15 hours per week you will be charged for the additional hours.

Children from working families may be entitled to an additional 15 hours per week, this is known as extended funding (also referred to as 30 hours).

You can access the free entitlement at any:

  • nursery unit operated by a Wirral school or a nursery school.
  • certain childminders
  • pre-school or playgroup
  • private day nursery
  • independent school

Any of the above who have signed up to offer funded places, speak to your potential provider to see if they accept funded places.

You can split your entitlement between a maximum of two providers. You can claim 15 hours over at least two days per week for a maximum of 10 hours in one day.

Claiming your child’s place

If you wish to claim for the Universal 15 hours your childcare provider will apply on your behalf, you simply need to complete a short form available from your provider. If you wish to apply for the Extended funding you need to apply online.

If you are splitting your funding between two providers you will need to complete a separate form with each provider.

When you can claim 

Children become eligible from the term after their third birthday.

  • children born between 1 January and 31 March become eligible in April (Summer Term)
  • children born between 1 April and 31 August become eligible in September (Autumn Term)
  • children born between 1 September and 31 December become eligible in January (Spring Term)

The entitlement will last until the term your child is in full-time education.

More information on how the funding works.

Extended funding (30 Hours)

Extended funding is an extra 15 hours per week (for 38 weeks per year) of free Early Years Childcare offered to the children of working parents or families entering work who meet a government set criteria.

The additional 15 hours will be available to families where:

  • both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family)
  • each parent has a weekly minimum income equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage or living wage and
  • neither parent has an income of more than £100,000 per year

Your child can start in their childcare place the term after they turn 3 years old and have received a valid 30 hours code, whichever is later. Term start dates are 1 September, 1 January and 1 April. Applications for an extended funding code can be made 12 weeks before the child’s 3rd birthday.

All applications are processed and managed by HMRC, you will need to re-confirm your details every 3 months to be able to continue to access your 30 hours of childcare. HMRC will advise you of the date you need to reconfirm by.

Any issues with 30 hour applications should be directed to childcare choices 0300 123 4097 or visit the Childcare Choices website for more information.

How many free hours do I get?

Funding Type Summer Term (1 Apr to 31 Aug) Autumn Term (1 Sep to 31 Dec) Spring Term (1 Jan to 31 March) Year
Universal Entitlement 195 hours 210 hours 165 hours 570 hours
Extended Entitlement 195 hours 210 hours 165 hours 570 hours
Combined Entitlement 390 hours 420 hours 330 hours 1,140 hours

30 Hours Childcare for working Foster Carers

In September 2018 the government extended its offer of 30 hours free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds to include working Foster Carers.

30 hours childcare will be available to foster carers where:

  • access to 30 hours childcare is consistent with the child’s care plan
  • in single-parent foster families, the foster parent is in paid work outside their fostering responsibilities
  • in dual parent foster families, both foster parents are in paid work outside their fostering responsibilities
  • in families where only one partner is a foster parent, they must be in paid work outside the fostering responsibilities and their partner must be in qualifying paid work for each they earn the equivalent of 16 hours at minimum or national living wage per week

To apply:

  • talk to your social worker and see if 30 hours is in the child’s care plan
  • email and request a ‘Foster Carers 30 Hours Application Form’
  • return with evidence of your work

If the above conditions are met then you will be sent a code which will allow you to use your entitlement at any OFSTED registered childcare provider who offer the 30 hours extended provision. Foster carers will need to reconfirm their status every 3 months.

Privacy notice

  • information will be processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018
  • eligibility will be checked by with appropriate government departments (HMRC, DWP and Home Office)
  • any entitlement or change in entitlement status will be shared by the local authority with the school or setting the child attends

Find out more about free childcare

Further information about the increase in funding entitlement.

For more information email Wirral’s Early Childhood services at

Tax-Free Childcare

Find out about the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme on the HMRC website

Childcare Choices

The Childcare Choices website includes a Childcare Calculator which parents can use to compare all the childcare offers available to them and see what is the best offer.

If you are having difficulty with the Childcare Choices website you can call the helpline on 0300 123 4097.