Who is eligible for 30 hours free childcare now it's being extended and when does it start?

Over the next two years, more working parents in England will benefit from free childcare, thanks to changes announced in the Spring Budget

nursery worker sitting at table with a group of nursery age children
(Image credit: Getty Images)

More working parents are due to benefit from free childcare, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced. 

While delivering the Spring Budget, Jeremy Hunt said that the 30 hours free childcare scheme, which is currently only available to qualifying parents of three and four year olds, will be extended to all eligible parents with children over nine months old. But this help with childcare costs won't happen straight away, this change will be rolled out in stages, expected to be complete by September 2025.

This, alongside other childcare related changes announced by the Chancellor, will be important news for families struggling with the cost of raising a child and rising average childcare costs.

Who is eligible for 30 hours free childcare?

While everyone can get 15 hours free childcare once their child turns three, under current rules, you can get 30 hours free childcare if:

  • You live in England
  • Your child is three or four years old
  • You, and your partner if you have one, are in paid work
  • You, and your partner if you have one, earn at least the equivalent of 16 hours a week at National Living Wage
  • You, and your partner if you have one, each earn less than £100,000 annually
  • You have a National Insurance number.
  • If you don’t qualify for this, all families in England are eligible for 15 hours free childcare per week (or 570 hours a year) for three and four year olds. 

But changes announced in the Spring Budget means that eligible parents will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week if their child is over nine months old. 

The move will not only help families who have been struggling to make ends meet amid the cost of living crisis, but also help more parents return to work after having children, as part of the government's drive to remove obstacles and support people back to work. 

When will the 30 hours free childcare changes start?

This change to the 30 hours free childcare rules will be introduced in phases, with 15 hours of free childcare for working parents of two-year-olds coming into effect in April 2024 and 15 hours of free childcare for working parents of nine months to three-year-olds in September 2024.

The Chancellor also announced a £204m increase in funding for nurseries for the existing free hours offer, incentive payments to encourage people to become childminders and additional funding for schools and local authorities to increase wraparound care between 8am and 6pm.

Working parents on Universal Credit will also see their childcare costs paid upfront rather than in arrears, making it easier for parents who are moving back into work or looking to increase their hours.

What else was announced in the Spring Budget?

There was lots announced in the Spring Budget, but one particular point of good news for families is that April's planned energy bill hike has been axed. Instead of rising to an annual £3,000 based on typical use, the Energy Price Guarantee will stay at it's current level of £2,500 for another three months. After that, wholesale energy prices are predicted to drop lower than the price guarantee - it has not yet been announced whether the price guarantee will be lowered at that point or ended early. 

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: "High energy bills are one of the biggest worries for families, which is why we’re maintaining the Energy Price Guarantee at its current level. With energy bills set to fall from July onwards, this temporary change will bridge the gap and ease the pressure on families, while also helping to lower inflation too."

The chancellor also announced that the 5p cut in fuel duty introduced in 2022 will be in place for an additional 12 months, saving families an average of £100 on their fuel bills.

Sarah Handley
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.