How do I apply for the extended 3-4 year old 30 hour entitlement?

3-4 year old free childcare

Update July 2020  -  Temporary changes have been made to the eligibility criteria for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare, during coronavirus.

The changes may affect you if you, or someone you live with, are:

  • on furlough

  • not able to work or you’re working less

  • self-employed

  • a critical worker

For full information please visit, Check if you can get Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare during coronavirus (COVID-19) 

30 hours funded childcare is intended to support working parents with the cost of childcare. It will enable them where they wish, to return to work or to work additional hours. It can, where early years providers can offer it and if parents would like, be taken all year round. The hours could be allocated pro rata.

The 15 hour universal free childcare is not dependant on your financial or employment circumstances; this is available to all 3-4 year olds.

Children are eligible from the term following their 3rd birthday until they reach compulsory school age whether they take up the universal 15 hours or extended 30 hour entitlement.

   Month child was born      School term free childcare can start 
   Between 1st January & 31st March      From 1st April (summer term)
   Between 1st April & 31st August    From 1st September (autumn term)
   Between 1st September & 31st August      From 1st January (spring term)


See our step by step guide on the application process

30 hours Extended Entitlement Checklist

  • Set up an online Government Gateway account
  • Visit the Family Information Directory for a list of providers taking part.
  • Apply for the extended entitlement here
  • Complete a parent declaration form provided from each childcare provider with your 11 digit code for each child accessing the additional hours.
  • Provider(s) will then verify eligibility code with us at Wigan Council.
  • Your provider(s) will confirm a place has been secured for your child (and you will identify provider for universal 15 hours) once code has been verified.
  • Any additional services or hours above entitlement must be agreed for and paid for by you the parent.
  • Parent needs to re-confirm eligibility every 3 months with HMRC.
  • If you fall out of eligibility, you will enter a grace period which will enable access to the funded place until that grace period ends.
  • If you are still not eligible after the grace period, then alternative payment for additional 15 hours must be found by you, the parent.
  • You can re-apply when they become eligible again and give the code to your childcare provider(s).
  • Entitlement will stop once your child is in Reception or at school age.

Did you know you can get further help with your childcare costs?

The government offers help to parents with childcare costs for children of all ages. From tax free childcare, childcare vouchers, tax credits, or childcare support whilst you are studying, plus much more, find out how you could get support at

Before Applying for Extended Entitlement

It is worthwhile taking the time to check whether you meet the qualifying criteria plus finding a suitable childcare provider or providers before completing the application for the extended entitlement.

If you have already registered interest through the Childcare Choices website, you will receive an email inviting your to complete the application process. You need to apply when your child is already 3 or 4 or will be 3 within the next 14 weeks. If you apply before their 3rd birthday, this could result in your unique 11-digit code not being generated.

To access the extended entitlement both parents (or sole parent if lone parent family), need to be in work and both meet the following relevant criteria;

  • You both live in England.
  • Each of you expects to have an annual income of less than £100,000 each year.


  • Each of you expects to earn the equivalent of £120 a week (16 hours a week on National Living Wage), or about £6,000 a year if you are over 25 years.

  • Each of you expects to earn at least £112.80 a week or work more than 16 hours a week if you are between 21 and 24 years old.

  • Each of you expects to earn at least £56 a week if you are an apprentice in their first year. 

The exception is if you have become self-employed less than 12 months ago, if so, please get in touch with HMRC.

It may be possible that you still qualify if you or your partner is not working. This may be possible if you or your partner;

  • Becomes employed within 14 days of applying.
  • Gets Universal Credit or tax credits.
  • Are currently taking paid time off work for sick leave, maternity or paternity leave.
  • Are temporarily away from England for up to 6 months. This could be if you are on military duty for example.

If you or your partner is employed or self-employed and one of you gets the following benefits, you can still apply;

  • 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 capacity for work.
  • Had an assessment as having limited capability for work with regards to Universal Credit.

If you meet the above criteria or believe you do so, whether you wish to access the additional 15 hours of childcare for your 3 or 4 year old or access tax-free childcare, you need to have a Government Gateway account as the application is managed directly through HMRC. The application for the additional hours of Early Education or childcare is the same as tax-free childcare – just one application is needed. If you already have a childcare service account for another child, then you only need to open one for all of your children.

If you do not already have a Gateway account you can set one up at the start of the application for 30 hours childcare or you can set up a Government Gateway account here.

Finding a Childcare Provider

For a list of all providers in the Wigan Borough taking part in the scheme visit Family Information Directory, select 3-4 year old childcare providers, enter your postcode and look out for the 30 hours logo.

It is worth noting that childcare providers do not have to provide the extended 30 hour extended entitlement. It may be that some providers might not have the capacity to offer all the hours. In these cases, parents can take the entitlement with more than one childcare provider working together as a partnership. For example, the partnership could be with private day nurseries, childminders, pre-schools or school nurseries or before and after school care. This is also known as a shared offer.

A childcare partnership is great for working parents as it provides greater flexibility. It may not always be possible for a childcare provider to offer the extended entitlement in full for a variety of reasons. As a parent you will be required to agree with your providers who will be responsible for delivering the universal 15 hours, and who will provide the additional hours. 

How do I apply?

Step 1: To apply with HMRC for the extended 30 hours entitlement click here.

  • Information on the eligibility and what details you will need to apply for the 30 hours can be found in this link.


Step 2: Your next step is to click the green button, Apply Now.

  • You will be prompted to enter personal information such as National Insurance number, date of birth etc about you, your partner and your child(ren).  It usually takes 20 minutes to apply.
  • Please be aware you may find out straight away if you are eligibly but it could take 7 days.
  • If you qualify for the 30 hours, you will be issued with a unique 11-digit eligibility code per child.


Step 3: You can then take your unique 11-digit eligibility code including your child’s date of birth and your National Insurance number to your chosen provider who will then verify this code and your eligibility with us here at Wigan Council.

  • Your chosen childcare provider will arrange with you when you child can start with them.

If you have any problems with applying for the 30 hours entitlement please contact HMRC on 0300 123 4097


Re-confirming Eligibility

At the time of applying for the additional hours, you will be given a deadline for when you must re-confirm your eligibility which is every 3 months.  Reminders from HMRC will be issued by text and/or email 4 weeks before the deadline.  Failure to re-confirm your eligibility may result in funding for your additional hours being withdrawn.

The parent that originally applied for the 30 hours code is the parent that needs to re confirm.

If your circumstances have not changed, re-confirming your eligibility is easy.

Select the following link to sign in

If you have any problems signing in to your account please contact HMRC on 0300 123 4097

If you do still qualify for the extended entitlement then you do not need to do anything. Your childcare provider(s) will be able to use your original 11-digit eligibility code. You will repeat the reconfirmation  process every 3 months until your circumstances change or your child attends reception or starts school in year one.


Change of Circumstances

Should your circumstances change and you no longer meet the eligibility criteria a grace period, set by HMRC will start. Your provider will notify you of this and of the date your additional hours will come to an end.  After this period, if you have not been able to re-confirm your eligibility, funding will only be provided for the universal 15 hours.  Arrangements to continue your childcare and payment of these additional hours will need to be discussed with your childcare provider.

Falling out of eligibility could be for a variety of reasons but the most common ones will be due to a change in yours or your partner’s employment situation, for example:

- You and/or your partner are no longer employed or working enough hours to qualify

- One of you has earned above the income threshold.

If, after your grace period has ended, you feel you would re-qualify for the extended entitlement, you will need to re-apply.  You will then be given a new 11-digit code that you can pass on to your provider for them to check your eligibility. If successful, you will then repeat the re-confirming eligibility process until your circumstances change again or your child starts reception or begins school in year one.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve applied but not had an 11-digit code, why?

There could be a couple of reasons why you have not been provided with your unique 11-digit code. The most common reasons are because HMRC need to review the details you have provided in more detail or your child is not yet 3 or will not be 3 in the next 14 weeks.

If your details need to be reviewed by HMRC in more detail, please wait 10 working days before you contact them about this.

Please do not contact your childcare provider and Wigan Council as we are unable to help as HMRC manage the applications directly. You can contact the HMRC Child Benefits team on the number below. You will need to have your National Insurance number or Child Benefit number to hand.

Telephone: 0300 123 4097

Opening times: 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm Saturday, closed Sundays, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.

If your child is not yet 3 or will not be 3 within the next 14 weeks you will not be issued a code. You will receive a code once your child does meet the criteria.


I no longer qualify, what happens next?

Should your circumstances change since you applied and your child is of the entitlement age, you  will be notified that you no longer qualify for the extended offer and you will enter a grace period. The grace period is set by HMRC. During this time you will continue to receive your entitlement and funding will not been withdrawn. The grace period is designed so that you have time to either make alternative arrangements with your childcare provider(s) about how you will pay for any additional hours over the universal 15, or for you to make amends so that you do become eligible again.

For example, if you lost your job and were unemployed when you re-confirmed your eligibility, you would enter a grace period and be notified of when the funding for any additional hours of Early Education or childcare will be withdrawn. If you manage to find employment before the end of the grace period and the new employment earnings meet the qualifying criteria, then funding will not be withdrawn. You will continue with the normal re-confirmation process every 3 months.

If the grace period ends and you are not able to confirm your eligibility, you will need to reapply for a new 11-digit code when you do next qualify for the entitlement. You will do this by completing a new application and repeat the process of giving your new code to your provider and they verifying the code. 

Do I have to take up the full 30 hours?

If you become eligible again after the grace period,

No, providing you use the full 15 universal hours, you can agree the number of additional hours you require with your chosen provider(s). Any hours over the 30 hour entitlement will need to be paid for by you the parent, this includes if you decide to stretch your hours over the course of the year.

Depending on your provider(s), you may be able to take your 30 hours over the course of the year rather than the school year as a stretched offer. For example, your provider may offer you opportunities to take 22 hours across 51 weeks of the year or 24 hours over 47.5 weeks.


Meals and additional Services

Childcare providers can only charge for additional items or services that a parent has decided to opt in to. These should be voluntary and parents given the option to buy or provide their own.

Items considered as additional items are; meals, nappies, trips or other activities that incur additional costs. If you chose to not have meals provided you should be able to provide your child with their own packed lunch.

All free entitlement hours plus any charges for additional items will be easily identified on your itemised invoice each month from your provider.  


What is the stretched offer?

Stretching the free early education entitlement for longer than 38 weeks, offer children the opportunities of attending the same provider all year round without the need for purchasing additional childcare during the school holidays. You will need to check with your provider whether you are able to stretch your entitlement.

Your chosen provider(s) may offer you opportunities to take 22 hours across 51 weeks of the year.  An alternative could be 24 hours over 47.5 weeks of the year.

Here are some examples of the type of sessions that may be available to you.

38 weeks  (30 hours)

47.5 weeks (24 hours)

51 weeks  (22 hours)

3 x 10 hour session

4 x 6 hour session

2 x 8 hour session

+ 1 x 6 hour session

5 x 6 hour session

12 x 10 hour session

+ 1 x 4 hour session

2 x 7 hour session

+ 1 x 8 hour session

4 x 7.5 hour session

3 x 8 hour session

3 x 5 hour session

+ 1 x 8 hour session



My child is not yet 3, can I still apply?

If your child is not yet 3 or will not turn 3 in the next 16 weeks, then you can register your interest through the Government owned site Childcare Choices. You will then get an email notification letting you know when you can apply. You can however apply for tax-free childcare as this is available from birth to 12 years of age.


I don't have access to the internet, how can I apply?

If you do not have the ability to access the internet on a device for long enough to apply for the scheme then you can call 0300 123 4097 and apply over the telephone.


I don't want a Tax-Free Childcare account but would still like to receive the 30 hours, is this possible?

Yes, it is possible to access the 30 hours but without having to set up Tax-Free Childcare. Opening a Tax-Free Childcare account may affect certain financial support that you receive such as tax credits and childcare vouchers. The application process for either the 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare is the same so just make sure you do not choose the Tax-Free Childcare option and your current support will be unaffected.



Page last reviewed: 03/08/2023

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