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Thousands more parents will be able to apply for free childcare in May





Thousands more parents will soon be able to apply for free childcare after the government confirmed the application date for the second round of its expansion scheme.

From May 12 eligible working parents of nine-month-old babies will be able to register for access to 15 hours of government-funded childcare a week.

Parents of babies over nine months will soon be able to apply for ‘free’ hours. Image: iStock.
Parents of babies over nine months will soon be able to apply for ‘free’ hours. Image: iStock.

The offer will begin from September 2024.

This is the second round of expansion for the funded childcare scheme, first announced last year - with eligible working parents of two-year-olds able to claim 15 hours a week of free childcare from next month.

From September 2025, working parents of children aged nine months and upwards will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week right up until their child goes to school.

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To be eligible for a funded place, parents must earn a minimum of the equivalent of 16 hours a week at minimum wage, but less than £100,000 a year.

Amid fears nurseries will struggle to deliver the number of places needed to meet demand in the coming months, the government says it has launched a national recruitment campaign for more early years staff and will invest an extra £400 million to increase the funding rates it gives to settings to meet the costs of funded places.

Working parents are being offered more government help with childcare costs. Image: Stock photo.
Working parents are being offered more government help with childcare costs. Image: Stock photo.

A consultation is also being launched among childminders, parents and councils to find out what the government can do to support more childminders to join and stay in the profession.

Read more: Fears parents are being duped with free chidcare – with nurseries warning of bleak future

Parents of babies looking for funded hours from this September are being told to ‘act now’ to secure their place if they have a nursery or childminder in mind.

Places, promises the government, will be available ‘in every area of the country’ but acknowledges a ‘significant minority’ of settings already have waiting lists of over six months.

Working parents are being offered more government help with childcare costs. Image: Stock photo.
Working parents are being offered more government help with childcare costs. Image: Stock photo.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “This government has a track record of transforming childcare, with the offer of 30 hours for three and four-year-olds for eligible working parents introduced in 2017.

“We are now going further, giving hard working parents of under threes the certainty they deserve to balance growing their families with a successful and rewarding career, saving parents up to an average of £6,900 a year for the full 30 hours.”

Parents can check their eligibility at childcarechoices.gov.uk alongside contacting their local provider to secure a physical place for their child ahead of time.

Families with concerns about finding a suitable place are being advised to speak to their local authority for help and advice.



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