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Navigating the UK 15 Hours Funded Childcare Scheme

02.04.24 -

Understanding the 15 Hours Funded Childcare for Families Scheme for 9-month-olds and 2-year-olds in the UK:

This is an in-depth look at the government-funded 15-hour Childcare scheme, eligibility criteria, application process, age requirements, funding expansion, and additional costs. We also talk about choosing the best nursery for your child as we understand this is often a daunting process for parents. 

An Introduction to the 15 Hours Funded Childcare Scheme

There are two funding schemes currently in place, the first offers 30 hours of childcare per week to eligible families and working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds in England. The second scheme started on 1st April so eligible working parents of 2-year-olds could receive 15 hours of funded childcare per week. 

As of 1st September 2024, it will be expanded again so that eligible working parents and families of children aged 9 months, or older can be eligible to receive 15 hours of funded childcare support per week.

The government has stated that all children will eventually receive 30-hour funded childcare per week, starting at age 9 months and continuing until they start school.

If you are an eligible working parent in England you can receive:

  • Up to 30 hours of funded childcare places per week for your three or four-year-old, over 38 weeks of the year (24 hours over 47.5 weeks). This is an existing government scheme
  • Up to 15 hours of childcare per week for your two-year-olds, over 38 weeks of the year (12 hours over 47.5 weeks). This is an existing government scheme that started 1st April 2024
  • Up to 15 hours of childcare per week for your 9-23 month-olds, over 38 weeks of the year (12 hours over 47.5 weeks) starting as of 1st September 2024

Eligibility for funded childcare can start in the term after a child reaches the relevant age. For example, if a child turns 9 months in October 2024 they will be eligible for the 15 hours funded childcare from the start of the January 2025 term.

Parents and carers can then book and pay for any additional hours they need for childcare at their chosen nursery.

Mama Bear Nurseries provides eligible families with 15 and 30 hours of funded childcare per term-time week and is accepting funded places for 9-month-olds this September. We welcome funded childcare and encourage parents and carers to use the funded hours that are available as we recognise that paying for childcare is not always easy. The age of your child and the specifics of your family circumstances will determine how many funded hours you are entitled to. 

We provide a variety of structured learning and play activities in our nursery settings, all of which are planned and designed to keep your child engaged, happy, and active. Funded childcare helps with the costs of a nursery so that your child can attend one of our friendly and nurturing nurseries. 

We focus on the 4 key development areas for our early years childcare:

  1. Communication & Language
  2. Communication and Sound
  3. Personal, Social & Emotional Development 
  4. Physical Development


Our Commitment:

They will have a daily routine with us at each of our Mama Bear Nurseries.

They will have a routine that develops good habits that will result in them loving coming to the nursery and feeling safe and secure with us.

Through social skill development, they will be able to build wholesome relationships with others.

They will develop good social skills and learn how to share and take turns.

They will gain good listening skills and learn about expressing themselves.

They will become more independent and self-sufficient.

We will strengthen their crucial abilities for success in their early years, including social, emotional and academic intelligence which will help them in all of their childhood learning.

We will prepare them for starting primary school.

We have a wealth of experience in childcare, and our qualified, caring and professional teams are passionate about child development in our caring and nurturing nursery environments. 

When your child comes to a Mama Bears nursery we work hard to ensure they feel safe and happy with us in an environment that encourages their social, cognitive, emotional, and physical growth. 

Key Dates for Funded Childcare for 9-Month-Olds:

From 12th May, eligible working parents whose children are between 9 and 23 months old on 31st August, can apply to receive 15 hours of childcare funded by the government, starting from 1st September 2024. The 15 hours of funded childcare will start in the following term when they turn the eligible age. 

If you have a child who will be 9 months old and you want them to start nursery as of 1st September using your funded hours, it is beneficial if you wait until mid-June to obtain your childcare code as they need to be renewed every 3 months. 

You should request your funded childcare code by the end of the month before a new term starts. As an example, if the term starts on 1st September you should apply by 31st August. Nursery school providers may ask for your code before this deadline and you should check the process with them.

You should register your interest with the nursery in your local area where you would like a place for your child and they will advise you of their process to follow. Spaces are filling up quickly for September so don’t delay and book an appointment to visit them as soon as you can.

About the 15 Hours Funded Childcare Schemes

The 15 Hours Funded Childcare Scheme is a vital support system for parents of 9-month-olds, and the subsequent scheme of 30 hours between the age of 3 up to when they start school in the UK. They offer a valuable opportunity for early childhood development and parental financial assistance. 

Providing children in their early years with access to structured early education from as early as 9 months old plays a crucial role in nurturing children’s cognitive, social, and emotional growth. Research indicates that children who participate in quality early education programmes often exhibit better academic outcomes and enhanced social skills later in life, underscoring the significance of initiatives like the 15-Hour Childcare Funded Scheme.

A working parent with a 2-year-old child is now eligible for 15 hours of funded childcare under the scheme which started as of 1st April, and for 9-month-olds as of September 2024. By enrolling their child into a reputable nursery, parents can ensure that their toddler receives essential early learning experiences while they can fulfil their work commitments. It demonstrates how the government’s scheme supports parents in managing their childcare needs and finances and contributes to the holistic development of young children during their early years.

The 15 Hours Funded Childcare Scheme aligns with the UK government's commitment to investing in the well-being of families and ensuring that children have access to crucial early education opportunities that lay a solid foundation for their future success. By fostering a supportive environment for working parents and young children, the scheme embodies the government's dedication to promoting a harmonious balance between work responsibilities and family life, ultimately benefitting families nationwide.

The Eligibility Criteria for Parents

In England, parents seeking to benefit from either of the 15 Hours Funded Childcare Scheme must meet specific eligibility criteria established by the government to qualify for the programme. One essential requirement is that parents must be actively employed to access the scheme, this ensures that the funded childcare per week can support working parents who need help managing their childcare responsibilities and finances effectively. As an example, a parent transitioning back to work after parental leave can apply for funded childcare to facilitate a smooth re-entry into the workforce, and this demonstrates the scheme's flexibility in accommodating multiple circumstances.

The eligibility criteria include income thresholds that parents must meet to qualify for the funded childcare. By setting clear income requirements, the scheme aims to target families who may need financial support with their childcare costs, aligning with the government's objective of assisting those in need. For instance, a family with a moderate income falling within the specified range can benefit from the scheme by receiving either 15 or 30 hours of funded childcare, depending on their income level, individual situation and the age of their child.

Parents are encouraged to consider the schemes available in the UK. Understanding the unique eligibility criteria and application processes can help parents make informed decisions about accessing childcare support for their preschool-age children, ensuring that they benefit from the available financial support and opportunities to support their child's early development.

Funded Childcare Hours Application Process Details

The application process for funded childcare is a straightforward process that typically takes around 20 minutes to complete. Parents applying for the scheme will need to provide essential documents such as National Insurance numbers and Unique Taxpayer References to verify their eligibility for the funded childcare. For instance, when completing the application form, parents will be prompted to enter these details to ensure that they meet the requirements established by the government.

After applying, parents can expect to receive confirmation of their eligibility within approximately 7 days. This quick confirmation process enables parents to plan for their childcare needs, ensuring that they can make timely arrangements once their eligibility is validated. By promptly confirming eligibility, families can access their part-time funded childcare place without unnecessary delays, providing them with the necessary support they require for their child's care.

Parents can benefit from online resources and guidance provided by the government to navigate the application process smoothly and address any queries or concerns they may have regarding the scheme. Accessing detailed information about the application requirements and timelines can help parents complete the process accurately and quickly, ensuring that they can secure childcare support for their young children without complications. The government funding options and childcare eligibility checker can be found here.

Age Requirements, Funding Expansion, and Benefits

The age requirements for children to access the funded childcare scheme encompass a broad range, starting from 9 months old as of 1st September, extending up to 4 years old when they start school, reflecting the government's commitment to early childhood development and parental support. By 2025, families with children as young as 9 months old will be included in the 30-hour entitlement of the funded childcare scheme, highlighting the government's dedication to offering vital early learning experiences for infants and toddlers. This expansion not only caters to a wider age group but also signifies the government's recognition of the importance of early education and financial support for parents.

The funding expansion strives to nurture the development of young children by starting nursery at a much younger age, emphasising the value of early childhood experiences in laying the groundwork for lifelong learning and well-being. The government's initiative to extend the scheme to children as young as 9 months underscores its commitment to promoting early education and care as essential components of children's growth and development.

The progressive funding expansion is a strategic move to enhance childcare accessibility and affordability for families across the UK, providing them with essential support in managing their childcare needs and finances effectively. By broadening the scope of the scheme to include younger children as of 1st September 2024, the government aims to offer families opportunities to access quality early education and care services that can positively impact their children's future outcomes and well-being.

The funded childcare schemes have been specifically created to address the needs of children during these critical developmental stages. Age-appropriate play, learning opportunities, and caring and compassionate care are all provided to support the development of the children in their early years. A good range and variety of engaging experiences that promote children's social, emotional, and cognitive development are provided by childcare providers who are part of the funded programme. It is designed to meet the developmental milestones of children ranging from 9 months to primary school age, so parents can feel secure in the knowledge that their children are growing up in a safe, stimulating environment that promotes their overall wellbeing. This focused strategy demonstrates the government's commitment to helping families during their children's formative years, providing a strong basis for future learning and achievement.

Additional Costs and Funding Allocation

When enrolling a child in a funded childcare scheme, parents should ask about the extra costs of childcare beyond the funded hours per week, such as meals provided by the nursery or extra services like educational activities or outings. Understanding any supplementary childcare fees helps parents budget effectively and plan for any additional expenses associated with their child's care.

The government's investment in childcare includes plans to enhance the hourly rates allocated to local authorities that provide childcare services, ensuring that childcare remains accessible and affordable for families. By increasing these rates, the government aims to support childcare providers in maintaining high-quality standards and offering valuable early education opportunities to children across the UK. The funding allocation plays a vital role in creating an inclusive environment where families can access affordable and reliable childcare options, supporting parents in managing their childcare needs effectively.

In addition to funded hours, there are tax-free childcare vouchers that parents and carers may be eligible for through salary sacrifice schemes at work. The vouchers can be used for or towards childcare payments. The childcare voucher scheme can be used for the costs of childcare; nursery costs, childminder payments, holidays and out-of-school clubs. You can find out more about the benefits of tax-free childcare vouchers here

The government's investment in childcare infrastructure involves initiatives to improve the quality and accessibility of childcare facilities, ensuring that families can access high-quality early education and care services for their children. By supporting the standards of childcare services, the government aims to create nurturing environments where children can learn and grow effectively, contributing to their overall development and well-being. This strategic investment underscores the government's commitment to supporting families and promoting the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping children's future outcomes.

Choosing the Best Nursery for Your Child

Selecting the best nursery for your child within the funded childcare schemes requires consideration of different factors, including the nursery's reputation, safety and security measures, child development focus, and nurturing environment. 

Parents should look at their childcare choices in their local area and check their online reviews, seek recommendations from other parents, and they should always visit nurseries before they book their child a place to start. By visiting a nursery parents will get a feel for it, see the children being looked after in the environment, and meet the staff when they visit. Good nurseries will be focused on providing quality care and a positive learning environment for children. Choosing a nursery with a strong reputation offers parents assurance that their child will receive excellent care, and development relevant to their age.

Security and safety are a paramount consideration when choosing a nursery, necessitating that parents ensure the facility maintains high standards of safety and security protocols, this can include secure entry systems and well-trained staff. A safe nursery environment not only protects children from harm but also fosters trust and confidence in parents, knowing that their child is in a secure and nurturing setting. When you visit a nursery always ask about the safety and security measures they have in place, as well as any other questions you may have. 

A child's development is greatly influenced by the caring environment of the nursery, which has an impact on their social, emotional, and cognitive development. To help children learn and develop, parents should search for nurseries that offer a welcoming, encouraging, and stimulating environment. For young children, a nurturing environment builds cognitive development, emotional health, and positive interactions, all of which serve as pillars for their future academic and social success. Parents can give their children the support and direction they need for healthy development by choosing a nursery that emphasises nurturing care.

The Expansion of Childcare Services and Government Investment 

The UK government's significant investment in childcare underscores its commitment to enhancing support for families by promoting a harmonious balance between work and family responsibilities. This increased investment not only includes financial contributions but also focuses on improving the overall infrastructure of childcare services, offering parents a wider range of affordable and flexible options to meet their individual needs and working schedules. By strengthening the framework of the childcare industry, the government aims to provide families with essential resources to access quality childcare services and support their children's early development effectively.

Part of the government's investment strategy involves allocating funds to enhance the quality and accessibility of childcare facilities across the UK, ensuring that parents have access to high-quality early education and care services for their children. By improving the standards of childcare establishments, the government aims to create nurturing and stimulating environments where children can learn and grow effectively, contributing to their overall well-being and development. This strategic investment reflects the government's proactive approach to strengthening the vital link between family life and professional responsibilities, supporting families in raising healthy and happy children.

Moreover, the government's commitment to expanding childcare support signifies a forward-thinking approach to addressing the diverse needs of families across the UK and promoting the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping children's future outcomes. By investing in the UK’s childcare infrastructure and enhancing support services, the government aims to create a more inclusive and supportive environment where families can access affordable and reliable childcare options, contributing to the overall well-being and development of children in the country. This strategic investment highlights the government's dedication to supporting families and fostering a positive environment for children to thrive and succeed.

15 Hours Funded Childcare Scheme Summary

The 15 Hours Funded Childcare Scheme stands as a pivotal initiative that offers crucial support to parents of current 2-year-olds up to the age of 3 when they can receive 30 hours of funded childcare, and 9-month-olds for 15 hours of funded childcare per week as of 1st September 2024. The funded childcare can start in the term after a child reaches the eligible age. For example, if a child is 9 months in October they are eligible for the 15 hours funded childcare from the start of the January term.

The government childcare schemes are providing essential early childhood education and care opportunities for young children. By participating in the schemes, parents can ensure that their children receive quality care and educational experiences that lay a solid foundation for their future development and success. 

Eligible parents can access either 15 or 30 hours of funded childcare, depending on the age of their child, enabling them to choose the option that best suits their work schedules and family requirements.

It is highly recommended that parents take advantage of this government-funded scheme to secure the necessary support for their children's growth and learning and to ease the financial burden of their childcare costs. By actively engaging in this initiative, parents not only invest in their children's future but also contribute to the overall well-being and development of their families.