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Here's What You Need To Know To Get Your 30 Hours Free Childcare

Startups.co.uk, leading small business experts, have put together five facts parents need to know about the extension of 30 hours of free childcare to all eligible children under five in September 2025.

  1. Both parents must be in employment to apply
  2. Parents need to register now to avoid long waiting lists 
  3. Not every nursery will opt into the scheme  
  4. Scheme only applies to term time, not all year round 
  5. The rules might change before September 2025

Parents in the UK have been promised a lifeline when the policy comes into effect next September. As it stands, the UK is the most expensive country in the developed world for childcare, with the average costs in London hitting £1,781 a month. The new policy is aimed at helping families footing the bill and to encourage more parents back to work. 

Here are five points you must know about the scheme:

  1. Both parents must be in employment to apply

To be eligible for the new scheme, both parents must be in paid work and neither parent can earn over £100,000. For many who have given up work to care for their children it will require them to find a new job before being able to apply. 

As a result, the scheme is most likely to impact parents who have already opted to put their children in nursery

Businesses might have hoped the plan would encourage part-time workers to increase their hours, boosting the UK workforce. But the free 30 hours still only covers three working days a week. Full-time workers will need to pay for the remaining two days themselves.

  1. Register early to avoid long waiting lists

To secure a spot, parents should apply as early as possible. The Department for Education recommends parents apply for a space one year before their child’s ideal start date.

However, long waiting lists are expected as an additional 85,000 spaces will be needed to meet the 30 hours’ free childcare plan. Currently, government data shows that 42.5% of UK childcare providers report having zero full-day spaces available. 

Startups spoke to childminder, Johanne Hardwick. Hardwick has already turned away 50 families who were hoping to sign up for the 30 hours’ free childcare. “I have five families on my waitlist and most days there are another three or four inquiries that come in”, she said.

  1. Not every nursery will opt in  

Make sure you check if the nursery or childminder is implementing the scheme or if they have any additional fees.

Some providers have said they might have to opt out of the scheme as it will cost them too much to implement the scheme. 

Others have introduced additional ‘top-up fees’ to bridge the gap between the costs of running the scheme and the shortfall in government funding. 

  1. Scheme only applies to term-time not all year round 

The free hours entitlement has been calculated based on term-time usage, meaning it only applies to 38 weeks out of 52. Government data shows that, on average, just 55% of nursery group providers are open during both term-time and during school holidays 

This leaves parents having to find alternative childcare for the remaining 3.5 months. During this time parents could rely on employee benefits from their employer - like extended annual leave, carer’s leave, or flexible working arrangements - to make up the shortfall.

  1. The rules might change before September 2025

It's important to note that the scheme could alter with a change in government, especially considering the upcoming election.  Additionally, certain aspects of the scheme might be subject to change if they are unfeasible to achieve within the current timeframes.

Stay informed by regularly checking the news to keep up to date with the current policy.

Startups.co.uk’s Lead Writer, Helena Young, comments: 

"Parents and employers have been searching for clarity on the government's childcare policy, which was rushed out by the Tories ahead of an election year. But while it had been billed as a way to get more women back to work, in truth, the new entitlement won't cut the mustard.”

"Limited childcare spaces and staff shortages mean that the policy looks undeliverable in its current form and will more likely lead to fee uncertainty, care waitlists, and school holiday havoc than boosted employment figures. What amounted to a quick win for the Tories could soon become a wasted opportunity for mums, dads, and the wider UK workforce."


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