Our Handy Guide to 30 Hours Free Childcare Funding at the POD
You know those things in life that we think we ‘should’ know but somehow, one way or another, just seem so unnecessarily complicated? Like when Easter will fall each year, trying to explain how the internet works to your grandma or why your toddler likes bananas one day but not another…
We’ll throw another one in there. 30 hours free childcare per week. That’s right, we’re opening THAT can of childcare worms.

We get so many questions about this topic that we thought we’d pop it all down in one place and give you the full low down on 30 hours free funding. We’ll cover how it’s set up (the good, the bad and the sometimes-ugly bits), and then explain how it works with us at the POD.

According to the government, all 3–4 year-olds in England are eligible for 30 hours free childcare (with an approved childcare provider), right up until they start in reception at school.

Now 30 ‘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 30 hours free varies from one childcare provider to the next and that’s when it all starts to get, well, a bit complicated.

Let’s dive right into the nitty gritty.


It’s Optional for Childcare Providers to Offer 30 Hours Free

You might be thinking “What?” Why wouldn’t nurseries, childminders etc take up this opportunity to give parents FREE childcare from the government? SURELY, they’ve been given money to cover these free hours and everyone’s a winner? The truth is it’s not actually FREE to childcare providers and for a lot of little places it’s not financially viable to do so (that’s a whole other conversation). So, if you’re looking to get 30 hours free, make sure you check that the childcare provider you want is providing it FIRST.


We DO Provide 30 Hours Free at the POD Because We Know It Helps Families

We are devoted to providing top notch flexible care 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 know that the current system of childcare provision in the UK is tricky (and expensive) at the best of times, and for parents that work unsocial hours, freelance, or have unpredictable working patterns we’re the perfect place to cater for their needs. 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 as many families have as much help, as much childcare and as much flexibility to get smashing childcare, as and when they need it.


The 30 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 ‘30 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 £8.40 session we run, we receive £5.06 funding. This is why the system is so flawed. 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 with more expensive hourly rates, voluntary contributions, top up fees or requiring parents to pay for extra costs like nappies or meals etc.


30 Hours Free Only Applies to Term Time (Which Isn’t Communicated Well)

So that means that officially it’s 30 hours free per week over 38 weeks of school - not 52 weeks of the year.

Some childcare providers ‘stretch’ the hours over 12 months to provide childcare over half term and summer holidays – because all childcare providers know that working parents need support in the holidays not just term time.

This means you still get the allocated 1,140 free hours (30hrs x 38 weeks) but instead of getting them over 38 weeks (which is your official 30 hours free per week allocation), they lower your free weekly hours to stretch them over a 52-week period.

Stretched or not you still only get the full 1,140 hours in total.


If You Do ‘Stretch’ Your Hours, Remember Unused Hours Can’t be Banked or Roll Over

The free hours don’t roll over or get banked. So effectively if you stretch your hours over 52 weeks it’s more likely than not that you’ll end up losing some of your entitlement if you go on holiday or take time off to spend with your kids. Which isn’t great.


You’ve Got to Be Eligible For 30 Hours Free – Unfortunately, it’s Not for Everyone

You must be eligible for 30 hours free and sadly not everyone is. To be eligible BOTH parents must be working but your total income must NOT exceed £100k. You are still eligible if you are claiming universal credit or childcare vouchers. If only one parent is working you may be entitled to the reduced 15 hours free entitlement. You can check out the full eligibility criteria here.


Here’s How Our 30 Hours Free Provision Works at the POD

At Practically Family we’re committed to making things as flexible and easy for parents to have brilliant childcare with no strings attached. 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. We’ve put together our 30 hours free provision in a way that means we can sustain the model in the long term plus we can continue to provide the flexible childcare provision our families love.

At the POD:

We only provide funded places in term time.

So that’s 30 hours free over 38 weeks of term time. We’ve found that most of our families tend to go away over school holidays or take time off to be with their school age children. By not stretching the provision we can be confident that families don’t end up losing hours and can get every single hour benefit from the scheme.

We also know that, in fact, it works out cheaper for parents to use our holiday clubs as cover if they do need extra help in the school holidays. Overall, we believe it’s more cost effective and flexible this way.

Our Funded Hours Are Only Available in Our Pre-School Setting

Our pre-school runs Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 3.15. This means you’re getting access to our amazing teacher-qualified, outdoor enriched, child-led EYFS setting – and it’s completely covered by your free hours’ entitlement. (We know we give you an extra 1hr and 15 minutes free each week - we are just passionate about the children's learning time and use that extra 15 minutes for getting ready for handovers at the end of the day rather than taking time out of the children's learning and education time!)

Our Wraparound Care Is Totally Optional and Not Built In

If you need wraparound care in the morning, evening, or weekends, you can add it. If you don’t need any hours beyond pre-school there’s absolutely nothing to pay. Ever.

There Are No Top Up Fees or Hidden Costs

Let’s face it, no-one likes expensive added extras. Being cost effective, transparent, and flexible is all part of who we are at Practically Family. We want to keep our pricing nice and simple. If you don’t want any more hours beyond pre-school hours, then there’s absolutely nothing to pay.

There Are No Long-Term Commitments or Hidden Fees

As always, our Practically Family promise remains. We want to give you flexible childcare that doesn’t tie you into lengthy commitments. That’s why our 30 hours free funded places need only to be renewed every 3 months and there’s no obligation to stay with us beyond that (or for any length of time).

We’ll still be as flexible as ever so, if you need to work late and need extra cover, you simply add it on with the optional wraparound care. Likewise, if you want to take the odd Friday off to spend with your child whilst they are little, that’s fine by us too. We can’t roll over the unused hours, but we’re not going to insist they come in either! We want you to always stay in control and have the maximum ability to flex your childcare as much as you need.

The details

Your child will be eligible for the 30 hours offer from the term after they turn three – see the quick guide below to help you work this out – and you can apply via the gov.uk website.Source: Early Years Alliance

You will need to fill in the application for you and your partner, if you live together, so HMRC can determine your eligibility. If you are eligible, you will be given an 11-digit code that you will need to give us along with their birth certificate and your national insurance number so we can get you set up. After that, you will need to reconfirm your eligibility every three months and the government should send you a reminder text to do this.


Whatever your childcare needs, give POD Manager Jade a call on 0161 439 5000. Whether it’s about understanding your funding options or how wraparound care works, we’ve got something guaranteed to fit every family and need.

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