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Three and four year old free early years entitlement places

Can my family get a free three or four year old place?

All three and four year old children are entitled to 15 hours of free early years (EY) entitlement per week, across 38 weeks of the year (school term time).

30 hours free childcare 

From September 2017 families where both parents work (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family) may get up to 30 hours free childcare per week for your three or four year old child.  Find out more about the new government childcare offers and how to apply on the Childcare Choices website.

Foster carers and 30 hours free childcare

From September 2018 children in foster care who are aged three or four years old will be able to receive 30 hours childcare, if the following criteria are met:

  • Accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child’s care plan; and
  • That, in single parent foster families, the foster parent engages in paid work outside their role as a foster parent; or
  • In two parent foster families, both partners engage in paid work outside their role as a foster parent. If one partner is not a foster parent then they must be in qualifying paid work and earn a minimum of the equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum/national living wage.

You should start by discussing this with the local authority responsible for the child (child's corporate parent) in Cheshire West. This is the child's social worker.

How do I apply?

Apply online

Foster parent(s) and the child's social worker should start discussions. This should be done as the child approaches thier third birthday or when a foster parent decides to take up additional work.

If the Council are looking after the child (responsible local authority) please request an application form via email.

You can return this application form to us by email or via post.

  • Address: 30 Hours Funding Team, Commissioning People - Childrens, 4th Floor, HQ, 58 Nicholas Street, Chester, CH1 2NP.

You and your partner if you have one will need to provide your:

  • National Insurance numbers
  • Any evidence requested by the local authority's designated officer e.g. the child's social worker, to confirm that you are engaging in paid work outside your role as foster parent such as; pay slips, evidence of self-employment (tax return) or a job offer letter.

What happens next?

Once the application form has been completed by the foster parents and verified by the local authority’s designated person (in Cheshire West this is the foster carer’s social worker), the completed form will be returned to the 30 hours funding team they will;

  • Process the application
  • Generate the 11 digit code
  • Send the code via email to the foster parents within four weeks (from the date of application)
  • Advise the foster parents and local authority designated officer if th application has been unable to be processed

Once the foster parent has received the code, the process is the same as for any other 30 hours parent and child;

The foster parent contacts a childcare provider (this can be with any registered finded childcare provider in England) and agree a 30 hour place

  • Give them the code along with your national insurance number to conform their place.

For furthur information please contact the 30 hours funding team.

Early years pupil premium

From April 2015, children who are currently claiming the free entitlement for three and four year olds could be eligible for additional funding called the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP).

The Early Years Pupil Premium is extra funding paid to early years providers to improve outcomes for eligible children. 

Apply online for places

When can my child start their place?

  • Child’s third birthday is between 1 April - 31 August
    Place will start from 1 September following their third birthday (depending on when your childcare provider allows funded places to start during this claim period).
  • Child’s third birthday is between 1 September - 31 December 
    Place will start from 1 January following their third birthday (depending on when your childcare provider allows funded places to start during this claim period).
  • Child’s third birthday is between 1 January - 31 March
    Place will start from 1 April following their third birthday (depending on when your childcare provider allows funded places to start during this claim period).

Where can my child’s free three or four year old place be taken?

You can choose to take this free EY entitlement at any of the following registered ‘providers’:

  • Pre-school/playgroup
  • Private day nursery
  • Childminder Maintained nursery unit operated by a Cheshire West and Chester school of a maintained nursery school
  • Independent school

How do I claim a free three or four year old place?

As a parent/carer you can decide where you would like your child to go (subject to availability). For more information about what is available in your area, or help to find a place, please telephone the Information Advice and Support Service on 0300 123 7001.

Once you decide where you would like to take your place, contact your provider of choice as soon as possible in case they have a waiting list for places.  

Also let your provider know that you would like to claim the free EY entitlement and how many hours you would like to claim each week. Your provider will give you a free early years entitlement parent/guardian/carer contract for you to fill in, and they will claim funding on your behalf from the local authority.

Each term, providers have a deadline for claiming this funding. The local authority may not be able to fund a child who has not taken up a free EY entitlement place by this date. You may be asked if there is a reason why you could not take your free entitlement place before this cut-off date.

The parental contract guidance notes gives some examples of circumstances which might prevent you starting your place at the start of term.

If you split your hours between two providers you will need to specify at which provider(s) you would like your child to take their free early years entitlement place and how many hours you would like to claim at each provider.

If your child moves to another provider during a term then you may not be able to claim the free entitlement at the new provider for the remainder of that term unless you have exceptional reasons for moving your child part way through the term and breaking the parental contract you signed at the start of term.

What will my child gain from the place?

Your child will receive 15 hours a week of play-based learning such as painting, reading, cooking, talking, singing, dancing, dressing up, running, jumping, building, gardening, and counting.

The learning will focus on: personal, social and emotional development, communication, language and literacy, problem solving, reasoning and numeracy, knowledge and understanding of the world, physical and creative development.

But most of all, your child is learning with other children and getting ready for when they start school.

How does the place work?

The free early years entitlement can be taken flexibly within the following limits:

  • The full 15 hours have to be taken over at least two days per week and a maximum of five days per week
  • A maximum of 10 hours can be taken in one day

Splitting between different providers

You can take the free early years entitlement at up to two providers in one day. The basic offer is three hours over five days a week, or five hours over three days a week, but many providers will allow you to take the provision flexibly, in a pattern that meets your needs.

For example, your child could have seven and a half hours at a nursery or reception class and seven and a half hours with a playgroup, day nursery, childminder or independent school.

What does free really mean?

Your childcare provider will claim your free entitlement hours from the council and the council will pay them for these hours.

If you just take your 15 hours a week at the provider then you will not be charged by the provider.

However, some providers may charge for meals, snacks or optional extras as these may not always be included within the free entitlement.

If you take more than 15 hours per week or more than 38 weeks per year there will be a charge from the provider for these additional hours. Please check with your provider for full details of any additional charges.

Where to find help

If you need information, advice or guidance about childcare, free nursery places and benefits available to you, contact the Information Advice and Support Service: 

  • Telephone: 0300 123 7001 (Monday to Friday 8.30am - 4.30pm)

We provide a free, impartial and confidential service to parents, carers, young people and professionals (unless there are reasons for concerns about a child's safety or welfare).

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