Working parents can apply for 15 hours free childcare for nine-month-old children from today

A lot more parents will be able to apply for free childcare
A lot more parents will be able to apply for free childcare -Credit:PA

Working parents in England can now apply for 15 hours free childcare for children as young as nine-months-old.

Parents of two-year-olds have been able to access 15 hours of childcare since last month. This will be extended to working parents of nine-month-olds from September, with applications opening on Sunday, May 12, for those whose children reach that age by August 31.

Parents can apply for their eligibility code via the childcare service, which they then take to their chosen childcare provider to validate. The full rollout will see support increase to 30 hours a week by September 2025.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "Last year we promised the biggest ever expansion in childcare provision in history and we are delivering. Over 210,000 children have already benefited from 15 hours of government-funded care and parents of nine-month-olds can apply from today. Our full expansion will save parents an average of £6,900 a year, meaning no parent has to choose between their career and caring for their child."

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: "Last year, just two thirds of local authorities felt confident they could deliver the rollout for April, but with our support, 100% have done so. That was only the beginning, and we will continue to support the sector so that every eligible parent can access the high-quality childcare they deserve."

All local authorities have reported they are currently meeting the demand from parents for childcare places, according to the Department for Education (DfE). A 1% increase, 15,000 childcare places, will be needed for this September, the department said.

A further 70,000 more places are likely to be needed for September next year, according to previous DfE projections. It estimated that 40,000 additional staff, compared with 2023, are required by September 2025 for the full rollout.

Check if you're eligible for free childcare if you're working

You may be able to get free childcare for your child aged nine months to four years old if you live in England. The amount of free childcare you can get depends on:

  • your child’s age and circumstances

  • whether you’re working (employed, self-employed, or a director)

  • your income (and your partner’s income, if you have one)

  • your immigration status

The number of hours of free childcare you can get depends on the age of your child. If your child is:

  • 9 months to 2 years old, you can get 15 hours per week of free childcare

  • 3 to 4 years old, you can get 30 hours per week of free childcare

Your income

Over the next three months you and your partner (if you have one) must each expect to earn at least:

  • £2,380 before tax if you’re aged 21 or over (equivalent to £183 per week)

  • £1,788 before tax if you’re aged 18 to 20 (equivalent to £137 per week)

  • £1,331 before tax if you’re under 18 or an apprentice (equivalent to £102 per week)

This is the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week on average. If you or your partner have an expected adjusted net income over £100,000 in the current tax year, you will not be eligible.

More information is available here and you can apply here. There are separate free childcare systems in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.