FROM KIRSTY WESTFIELD, NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL
Thirty hours' free childcare is available for three- and four-year-olds of working families from next month, but parents must apply before 31 August 2017 to receive funding from this September.
All families are eligible for 15 hours funded childcare per week with an Ofsted registered child carer. The additional 15 hours is available to most working families, who should apply as soon as possible if they require funding for the autumn term.
To apply for the extended 15 hours of funding, families should visit the Childcare Choices website www.childcarechoices.gov.uk
Here they can create a Government Gateway account and then apply for the ‘30 hours childcare’. is the website gives a straightforward explanation of all Government childcare support, including Tax Credits or Universal Credits for childcare and the recently launched Tax Free Childcare.
All eligible parents are supplied with an 11-digit eligibility code to present to their chosen childcare provider who will then validate this and discuss attendance patterns.
A childcare calculator is also available for all families. It helps you quickly find out which of the childcare funding options works best for you.
Mrs Jordan was one of the first parents in North Lincolnshire to apply for the funding. She said “The 30 hours funding will be invaluable. We currently rely each day on grandparents which limits their free time and holidays. Additionally, the 30 hours will allow my husband to work shifts during the week, providing us with some family time at the weekend which is non-existent at the moment.”
Families can access their funded place in Ofsted registered childcare, including childminders, nurseries, pre-schools, school nurseries, before and after school clubs, or a mix of these. Each type of provider offers different session times and availability. Parents should consider their needs and the type of childcare that is most appropriate. They can choose to split their funding between more than one setting, and they can spread the 1,140 of childcare hours throughout the year if required. A maximum of 10 hours childcare is available in any one day.
Children are eligible for the universal and extended 15 hours the school term after their third birthday. For the additional 15 hours, both parents, or a lone parent where appropriate, must be in employment (including self-employment) and expect to earn (on average) at least £120 a week. This is equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage. If one parent is on maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or unable to work due to illness, a disability or caring responsibilities, they may still be eligible for the additional funded hours.
Parents who expect to earn in excess of £100,000 (individually) are not eligible. Parents who are studying are also not eligible, but other financial support may be available. Visit the Childcare Choices website for more information.
Any applications made after 31 August, if successful, will not be able to access the extended 15 hours until 1 January 2018, even if they meet the full eligibility criteria. Families can apply during the term that their child turns three years of age and will be able to start the next school term - autumn, spring or summer.
To help families make a choice the Family Information Service can supply details of local childcare providers. They can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01724 296629.
Cllr David Rose, cabinet member for Children, Learning and Families at North Lincolnshire Council said: “Extended childcare funding for working families is a welcome addition to the support available. It helps families who work, but it can also assist families who wish to return to work, or increase their working hours, by making childcare more affordable.
“If you have a three or four year old who you would like to access the funding in September, you must apply as soon as possible and before 31 August, otherwise their funding won’t be available for the autumn term.
“The Government’s online childcare calculator is a very useful tool to help you work out which funding option is best for your family, and our Family Information Service is on hand to help you find a local childcare provider to suit your needs. Please do not hesitate to contact them for details.”
PICTURED ABOVE: Brigg Children's Centre, on Grammar School Road.