Our Handy Guide to 15 Hours Free Childcare Funding for 2-Year Olds at POD
Ah, the mysteries of life – like why toddlers are bananas about bananas one day and bananas about something else the next. And then, there's that other enigma: 15 hours of free childcare for 2-year-olds. Yep, we're diving into THAT childcare puzzle.
Whilst we've spoken with all our POD parents and feel everyone is clued up and ready to go, we thought it was important to put it all down on paper as a reminder(!) and to shed some light on the ins and outs of the setup and to how it all plays out here at the POD. Consider this your go-to guide for navigating the world of 15 hours of free childcare.


Let’s start with the basics.

If you're a working parent and meet the eligibility criteria, you’ll get 15 hours of funded childcare the term after your child turns 2 years old. If your child is already 2 or turns 2 before March 31 2024, you’ll get the hours from 1 April 2024. If your child turns 2 between 1 April and 31 August 2024 you’ll get the hours from 1 September 2024.

From September 2024 the scheme will be extended to include children aged 9 months and older. More information yet to come on this.

Now 15 ‘free’ hours childcare per week gifted by the government sounds like it should be a glorious cherry on top of the childcare cake, right? The thing is, that the 15 hours free varies from one childcare provider to the next and that’s when it all starts to get a bit complicated.

Let’s dive right into the nitty gritty.


It’s Optional for Childcare Providers to Offer 15 Hours Free

You might be wondering, "Why wouldn't nurseries and childminders jump at the chance to offer parents free childcare from the government? Surely, they've been funded to cover these hours, right? Well, the reality is, it's not actually ‘free’ for childcare providers. For many it's simply not financially feasible. So, before banking on those 15 hours, be sure to check if your preferred childcare provider offers them first.


We DO Provide 15 Hours Free at POD Because We Know It Helps Families

We are devoted to providing top notch childcare for working parents, so we’re on board with the system even if we must take the hit, so to speak. Any help from the government for working families is better than nothing and therefore it’s a scheme we support wholeheartedly.

We wouldn’t be staying true to who we are and what we care about if we didn’t do everything possible to make sure our families have as much help as possible.


The 15 Hours Free Model Is Underfunded Which Means Different Childcare Providers Have Different Ways of Providing It

It’s important to be clear how your childcare provider is working the model. Part of what makes the ‘15 hours free’ situation complicated is the financial gap childcare providers are required to cover – and then the various ways in which they decide to bridge this gap.

For example, every 2 year old session we run, we receive £7.11 funding. Many nurseries are on the brink of collapse, and they must sadly look at other ways of recouping the deficit to keep in business. Whether that’s by increasing their hourly rates, voluntary contributions, top up fees or requiring parents to pay for extra costs like nappies or meals etc.

This, combined with the rising costs of essential resources, food, insurance, and health and safety equipment, coupled with the increased national living wage and various contributions means we’ve been left with no choice but to increase our hourly rate at POD. From April 2024 our price is £8.40 per hour (equivalent to £10.50 for our 1hr 15 min sessions).

Despite these challenges, we remain committed to providing an exceptional environment for our PODDERs to explore and thrive, offering a range of enriching activities. Moreover, amidst a fragile childcare market where turnover rates are high, we take pride in our outstanding, qualified, and consistent team. By investing in their ongoing training and development, we ensure the best possible care for your little ones, maintaining our commitment to excellence and stability within our magical POD.


15 Hours Free Only Applies to Term Time

So that means that officially it’s 15 hours free per week over 38 weeks of school - not 52 weeks of the year.


Here’s How Our 15 Hours Free Provision Works at the POD

We want our families to get the most financial benefit out of any scheme on offer, and we want to make that process as simple as possible.

At the POD:

Parents Choose.

To keep things manageable and straightforward, parents at POD will choose to book 1 full day (8am-6pm) and one ½ day (either 8am-1pm or 1pm to 6pm) and the days they choose will be fixed for the whole term ensuring they get their full 15 hours funding.

Need more hours?

Additional hours (on top of the day and a half 15 free hours) can be booked as normal with all the flexibility of POD, with sessions from 1 hr 15 mins. If you don’t need any hours beyond the 15 hours term time, there’s absolutely nothing more to pay.


When can I apply?

You must apply before the start of the term in which your child reaches the relevant age. It is recommended that you apply well in advance of the term start date. This is because HMRC (who administer the scheme) need to verify the details of your claim and check your eligibility. Once they have done this they will issue you with a code which you must give to your childcare provider.


How do I apply?

To apply you will need to open up a childcare account online. You will need your National Insurance number. If you’re self-employed, you’ll also need your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). You’ll also need your child’s birth certificate reference number (if you have one) and the date you started or are due to start work (this can be approximate if you started more than 3 months ago).

Click here to go to the childcare application portal to apply for the free childcare.


And finally, don’t forget, one of the main supports available to everyone is Tax Free Childcare. The TFC account is a great way to save a little bit of money when paying for childcare. You can find out more here.  If your child is in our Preschool then check out our Guide to 30 Free Hours.




If you’d like to find out more about the practical magic we can bring to your family please get in touch.
Call 07581 156684 or email sophie@practicallyfamily.co.uk