Government Funding Information

Eligibility, application and validity checking processes for 30 Hours Free Childcare (the Extended Entitlement)


Parents apply through the digital childcare service, or in some circumstances, by phone using the childcare service Customer Interaction Centre. If their application is successful, they are given an 11-digit eligibility code (beginning ‘500’).


Parents take their eligibility code to a provider for verification,together with their National Insurance number and child’s date of birth.


The provider verifies the code through their local authority, either by phone or email, or through a provider portal linked to the local authority system. The local authority verifies the code through DfE’s

Eligibility Checking Service (ECS).


Local authorities should audit the eligibility codes at 6 points in the year to identify children who have fallen out of eligibility


Parents will be prompted every three months to reconfirm that they remain eligible. If they are no longer eligible for 30 hours,they will enter a grace period and will be able to retain their place for a short period. Parents can only start claiming a 30 hours place for their three or four year old the term following the date they receive a decision from HMRC. Therefore, they should be

encouraged to apply in good time. Providers will need to verify the code before a child takes up their place.


How will parents know what to do?


Parents can check whether they could be eligible for a range of government childcare offers, including 30 hours, via Childcare Choices at: the Childcare Calculator at: Those who could be eligible for 30 hours and/or Tax-Free Childcare will be directed to the digital childcare service to apply. The eligibility criteria for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare are broadly aligned. For a more detailed guide to the 30 hours eligibility criteria see

our guide at

. Parents will be able to apply for both 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare at the same time by entering their details once. HMRC will check parents’ eligibility for both schemes at the same time.

Parents will not need to apply through the digital childcare service if they only want to claim the universal 15 hours entitlement for three and four year old children.


Parents need to check with their childcare provider or local authority whether their two year old is eligible for a free 15 hour place.


Use our 30 hours

Eligibility Guide to help parents understand if they are eligible.

You can download a copy at



Providers should urge parents to bring their code to their provider as soon as they receive it.

Local authorities should encourage their providers to verify parent codes as rapidly as possible. Local authorities should remind providers that a parent cannot take up their 30 hours place until the code has been verified


Reassure parents who do not want to use Tax-Free Childcare that they should still apply for 30 hours via the digital childcare service. If they are receiving financial support through tax credits and childcare vouchers and only want to take up 30 hours, they can choose not to apply for Tax-Free Childcare (and keep their tax

credits) as part of the application.


Tell parents they do not need to apply via the digital service if they only want the universal 15 hours entitlement for 3 and 4 year old children or the 2 year old offer



The difference between applying for 30 hours (extended entitlement) and 15 hours (universal entitlement)


Parents must apply for 30 hours free childcare through the digital childcare service or, in some circumstances,directly with the childcare service Customer Interaction Centre, not through their local authority or provider. HMRC is responsible for checking whether a

parent is eligible and issuing an eligibility code. Providers and local authorities are responsible for verifying (or confirming) eligibility by checking that the parent’s code is valid. Local authorities and providers will use the DfE’s Eligibility Checking Service (ECS)

to verify the code (see the graphic on page 14 – ‘Provider guide to checking validity of 30 12 hours eligibility codes’). Parents wanting only to claim the universal 15 hours entitlement should do so via their provider and local authority and not through the digital childcare

service. In contrast to the universal entitlement (which only has an age criterion), parents also need to meet a set of eligibility requirements (i.e. income requirements). A parent can only take up

30 hours once both of these conditions are met: a child starts the term following, their third birthday and the term following receipt of their eligibility code from HMRC, whichever is later


Parents should be encouraged to apply the term before their child meets the age criterion to ensure they can access a place at the start of the term after their child turns three. If not, they will need to wait until the following term to access their 30 hours place. Please

note that the earliest a parent could receive a 30 hours code for their child will be 16 weeks before they turn three

years old. If a parent applies before this point, they will need

to wait until reconfirmation before applying for 30 hours.

Like the universal 15 hours entitlement, parents cannot claim 30 hours free childcare once their child has reached compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday).

Please note the latest a parent could receive a 30 hours code is 22 weeks after the child turns five.It is therefore important that providers check the age of the child as well as the code. Parents cannot claim their 30 hours in addition to a full time reception place in a state-funded school.


Verification of Codes for 30 Hours (Extended Entitlement)


Parents wishing to reserve a 30 hours place will present the childcare provider with their 30 hours eligibility code. The parent’s eligibility code will be 11 digits long and usually begin with the number ‘500’. There might be some circumstances where a parent’s code will begin with ‘11’. These are temporary codes that will allow parents to claim 30 hours for a short period until they can apply through the digital childcare service.When parents bring their eligibility code to their provider, they should also bring their child’s date of birth and the National Insurance number of the parent who made the application. A partner who is listed on the application may come in place of the applicant and should bring their own National Insurance number. Providers only need to verify the code against either the applicant or the partner listed on the application, not both.

Before providers verify the code with the local authority, they will need to get the written consent of the parent or partner whose information is being checked. The DfE provides an Eligibility Checking Service (ECS), which currently checks eligibility for Free School Meals, the Early Years Pupil Premium and the entitlement to early learning for two-year-olds. The ECS has now been adapted to allow local authorities to verify eligibility of children for 30 hours free childcare.