HM Government Childcare Choices

What do childcare providers need to know?


Thousands of parents have already applied for two schemes: Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare.


Find out how the schemes affect you, and how they can benefit your parents.

Thousands of parents have already applied for two schemes: Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare.


Find out how the schemes affect you, and how they can benefit your parents.

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Tax-Free Childcare

What does Tax-Free Childcare mean for me?

Tax-Free Childcare is a UK wide offer. Eligible parents with children under 12 can get up to £2,000 per child, per year, towards their childcare costs (or up to £4,000 for disabled children under 17).

Parents entering the scheme open an online childcare account which they use to pay you directly for childcare. Payments work just as they do through an online bank account. Each payment is accompanied by a reference number for each child so you can identify their payments.

You will only be able to receive Tax-Free Childcare payments from your customers if you’ve signed up to Tax-Free Childcare. 

Over time, Tax-Free Childcare will replace childcare vouchers. By signing up now, you’ll be ready to accept payments from parents as soon as they ask to pay using Tax-Free Childcare.

Signing up to Tax-Free Childcare does not affect any payments you receive through childcare voucher schemes.

You can find information and materials on Childcare Choices in our communications toolkit:

Communications toolkit

How do I sign up as a provider?

An invitation letter will be sent to you once we receive your details from your regulator. If you’ve recently registered as a childcare provider, this may take a few weeks.

Your invitation letter will contain your unique user ID to sign up online to Tax-Free Childcare and will also tell you what other details you need to sign up. If you haven’t received your invitation letter, contact the childcare service helpline.

How do I find out which child a payment is for? 

When parents make payments to you using their childcare account, the payment appears alongside their unique child reference number in your bank account.

Parents are given these reference numbers when they sign up to Tax-Free Childcare.

These reference numbers are made up of the first letter of the child’s first name, the first three letters of their surname, a five digit number and ‘TFC’.

For example, John Smith may have the reference JSMI12345TFC. Parents are encouraged to pass these numbers on to you before making a payment, to support you in matching payments to individual children.

However, if you are having trouble matching which child a payment relates to you can submit a payment reconciliation form.


30 hours free childcare

What does 30 hours mean for me?

30 hours free childcare is available to eligible working families of 3 and 4 year olds in England. This is an additional 15 hours on top of the 15 hours available to all parents of three and four year olds. Just like the 15 hours entitlement, you do not have to offer 30 hours free childcare.

What do parents need to know? 

Parents can check their eligibility for 30 hours through the childcare calculator and apply for 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare through the childcare service.

If eligible, the parent will receive an 11-digit eligibility code. Before a parent can take up a place they must bring their code, national insurance number and child’s date of birth to you so you can check that their code is valid. You should encourage parents to bring you their code as soon as they receive it. Parents cannot take up a 30 hours place until you have validated their code. Your local authority will be able to provide you with information about the process for validating codes in your area.

Every three months parents will need to confirm that the details they entered on their application are up to date. We’ll send them email reminders to do this, but it is good practice for you to remind parents as well.

How will I be paid?

Once you have validated the parent’s code and checked that the child is the correct age to take up their place (further information about this can be found in the operational guidance), you will be paid through the local procedures for headcount claims just like the 15 hours entitlement.

Is there more information available? 

You can find more information on 30 hours and materials to share with parents (e.g. flyers, posters, email templates and social media content) in our communications toolkit:

Communications toolkit

There is a range of additional resources available for providers to inform and support you to deliver 30 hours free childcare to parents. These include:

The Family Childcare Trust has also developed a Partnership Toolkit. Information on partnership working can also be found in the Operational Guidance.