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Free childcare for 3 and 4 year old children

Here are the most frequently asked questions about the free childcare entitlement for three and four-year-olds.

Please note: where we refer to a ‘childcare provider’ this means day nurseries, nursery schools, nursery classes, pre-schools and playgroups in the private, voluntary and independent sector.

When will my child be eligible for this funding?

The term starting after their third birthday:
Birthday between / Eligible from
1 September - 31 December / January (Spring term)
1 January - 31 March / April (Summer term)
1 April - 31 August / September (Autumn term)
How many hours of early years entitlement can my child have?
Your child is entitled to 15 hours a week funded by Ealing Council through the Early Years Team, up to a maximum of 38 weeks of the year.
You will have to pay for any additional hours you need. Your childcare provider may also charge for extra services that are not covered by this free entitlement such as snacks and specialist classes.
How many hours can I use in one day?
You must use at least two and a half hours and a maximum of ten hours in one day. 
Most nurseries in primary schools offer five sessions a week over five mornings or five afternoons. Some have a choice of morning or afternoon sessions. Demand for places at school nurseries is high. You are advised to register your child once your child turns two years old to give them the best chance of a place.
You may be able to take your hours more flexibly at some private childcare providers subject to availability.
My child's nursery offers less than 38 weeks a year; can I send them to another childcare provider to make up the difference?
No, once you sign the Parent Declaration Form at the beginning of term to receive the funded place through a certain provider - extra weeks at the end of term/year cannot be claimed elsewhere.
How is the funding paid?
In the first two weeks of each term the childcare provider will carry out a headcount of all children who qualify for early education funding. They will then send the list to the Early Years Data Officer (at Ealing Council) and receive the funds directly (usually at half-term). You need to ensure that when the childcare provider gives you the Parent Declaration Form - it is signed and returned to them in good time. Primary school nurseries will not ask you to complete a Parent Declaration Form.
Which childcare provider can I use?
Any childcare provider listed in the Local Authority Directory of Providers. Contact the Family Information Service on 020 8825 5588 for a copy.
Do I have the right to take my entitlement with a particular provider?
You have the right to an early year’s education place for your child but NO guarantee of a place at the provider of your choice. However, the Family Information Service makes every effort to help you find the best place for your child.
Can I have daily sessions of just three hours at a nursery, or playgroup?
If you require the basic entitlement of three hours a day - you are advised to seek a place at a school nursery class or choose a childcare provider that offers only three hour sessions daily.
What if my child attends a state nursery school or class?
You do not have to do anything. The head teacher will inform Ealing Early Years and the payment will go direct to the school.
What if my child attends a voluntary, independent or private childcare provider?
You should advise the childcare provider that your child is now three years old and they will apply to Ealing Early Years for funding.
What if my child attends a childcare provider in another borough?
The borough in which your childcare provider is based will pay for your child’s place regardless of where you live.
I have just moved into the area and have missed the headcount day - is my child still entitled to a funded place?
Yes. You will be asked to provide Ealing Early Years with evidence that you have moved into the area. We will need to see either a utility bill or Council Tax bill. Please speak to the childcare provider for further details.
My child has just moved to England from another country – will they be entitled to a funded place?
Yes, they are entitled to a free early education place regardless of whether they have British Citizenship. 
If my child attends a school nursery class - does this mean they will automatically get a place at that school?
No. You will still need to apply for a place at the school like everyone else. This ensures that children who attend other childcare providers in the area are not at a disadvantage and have the same chance of a school place as children attending the school's nursery.
I would like to query the invoice I have received from the childcare provider - who shall I contact?
In the first instance you should speak directly to the person responsible for the invoices and/or the manager, if you do not understand how you have been charged for services or do not agree with what has been charged. 
Childcare providers differ in how they manage their business and the additional charges they set outside of the free early years education entitlement. Providers have a responsibility to you to provide clear and concise information about their service charges and billing arrangements and should be prepared to go through any paperwork or queries with you.
Can my childcare provider charge a registration fee or deposit for my early years place?
No. Childcare providers are not allowed to makes charges that relate to the free early years education entitlement. For example: for deposits, registration fees or uniform. However they can charge for privately funded additional hours and services.
Can I apply for Tax Credits to help with childcare costs?
The Tax Credit system is there to support families on low incomes. It is made up of three different parts:
Child Tax Credit - Payable based on household income and the number of children you have whether income is from work or benefits.
Working Tax Credit - Payable to anyone who is responsible for a child and works for 16 hours or more a week on a low income.
Childcare element of Working Tax Credit
Payable to anyone working 16 hours or more a week with a child in registered childcare. Help could be up to 70% of costs. In a couple, both partners must work 16 hours or more a week.
Tax Credit helpline
0845 300 3900 
Lines are open 8am – 8pm everyday
(With access to over 80 different languages)
Do it online
Check how much you may be entitled to at: 

London Borough of Ealing