Coronavirus, early years and childcare

To prevent the spread of coronavirus and in order to follow government guidelines, families should only attend a Children’s centre if they have been invited to do so.

Childcare during coronavirus

If you are a key worker or you have a vulnerable child, you can apply for childcare 

The department for education has clear information for childcare settings that remain open for key workers and vulnerable children.

Children's centres virtual activities

We have a range of virtual sessions and support around early speech, language and communication. You can join us via zoom or 121 phone calls. We also have information on how you can get your Healthy Start vitamins and vouchers, Bookstart baby packs and activities you can do while staying safe at home.

Training sessions 

We have resumed some first aid and safeguarding courses and adult education courses.

Thank you

We would like to express our gratitude to all early education and childcare settings and childminders who have continued throughout COVID to offer Tower Hamlets children a wonderful, safe, caring and stimulating time. Thank you!

Early learning and childcare funding

There are many schemes available to help you give the best start to your child and to help you with the costs.

Childcare during coronavirus

Who can still access childcare?

The government has asked schools and all childcare providers, including childminders, to continue to provide care for children who are vulnerable and children of key workers who cannot be safely cared for at home.

While as many early years childcare providers as possible are trying to stay open for eligible children, capacity may be impacted by staff illness.

There are sufficient places locally for families who need one, and we are working closely with local childcare providers to manage demand. 

If you:

We can help to provide childcare for you.

Apply for childcare during coronavirus



If you need support but don’t need a childcare place, please contact us on 020 7364 5277.

 Stay & Play -30

Finding local Childcare

The Family Information Service provides free, impartial information and advice on childcare as well as general information on a wide range of services for children, young people (birth to 25 years old) and parents and families. Please refer to the Local Offer to find childcare providers in Tower Hamlets.

Early learning for two-year-olds

Some children may be entitled to15 hours of free childcare in the term after their second birthday. Early learning for two year olds is only open to children that meet certain criteria such as coming from a low income family, requiring additional needs or if they are currently looked after by the council.

If you have an older child who is currently at school and getting free school meals, younger children will probably be able to get a free two year old place as well.

Tower Hamlets has some excellent nurseries, pre -school playgroups and childminders that will help children learn and play.

For more information and to check whether you qualify for 15 hours of free childcare, please contact the Family Information Service on 020 7364 6495 or complete the application form and send it to  If you need help filling out the application form please go to your local children’s centre.

Find out what parents say about our service.

Please note that Universal Credit eligibility criteria for the two year old offer and EYPP are currently subject to consultation.

Complete the early learning for two years application form


15hr Early learning

You can find more information about the criteria on the Early learning for two-year-old fact sheet.

Apply for early learning for two-year olds

You can check your eligibility by contacting your nearest Children’s Centre, Integrated Early Years’ Service on 020 7364 1553 or the Family Information Service on 020 7364 6495.

Nursery education for three and four-year-olds

Every child in Tower Hamlets can have 15 hours of free nursery education in the term immediately after they reach three years of age. The childcare applies directly to the local authority for funding.  Parents must show proof of their child’s age to the childcare provider and sign an agreement form in order to receive funding.

The payment for 15 hours per week is done for a 38 week period per year, but the 15 hours can be taken at a provider in more flexible way to suit the child’s and family’s needs.

A free part-time place might be available to the child if they are attending an Ofsted-registered childcare setting such as:

  • a pre-school playgroup
  • a local authority day nursery
  • a private sector day nursery
  • a voluntary sector day nursery
  • a registered childminder. 

Early years pupil premium – extra funding for your childcare provider

The Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) gives early years education providers extra funding to support disadvantaged three and four year olds.  Your child might be able to get additional funding and equipment to support their needs.

Your childcare provider (nursery, childminder or school) could be able to receive funding for your child.

Contact the Family Information Service on 020 7364 6495 to check whether you are eligible.

The Early Years Pupil Premium has more information.

Since September 2017, the government has increased the number of hours of free childcare available to eligible working parents of three and four olds, which now means they can have up to a total of 30 hours free early education and childcare. The offer is made up of a total of 1,140 hours over the year, which is 30 hours per week for the 38 weeks of the school year (all though this offer can be spread over the full year if it suits the needs of working parents better).

Please note that not all providers can offer the full hours that parents are entitled to get, so it will be possible for parents to use more than one childcare provider to ensure that they are getting all their hours.

Read the Early years pupil premium factsheet. 

Extension to free childcare entitlement for 3 & 4 year olds for working parents

 13.288 30 hours free childcare AT Jan 2018

From September 2017 the government is increasing the number of hours of free childcare available to eligible working parents of 3&4 year olds, this will be on top of the universal free early education entitlement of 15 hours per week meaning a total of up to 30 hours free early education and childcare for working parents. The offer consists of a total of 1,140 hours across the year, 30 hours per week for the 38 weeks of the school year, although this offer can be stretched across the full year to better suit the needs of working parents.

Not all providers will be able to offer the full hours that parents are entitled to so parents will be able to use more than one childcare provider to ensure they can access their full entitlement.

CC Supporting families

Can I receive free childcare?

The HMRC Childcare Choices website determines who can receive funding for childcare.

In order for parents to get funding, they must have their unique eligibility code for the extra 15 hours. If the provider agrees, parents who qualify can take the 1140 hours over 51 weeks (22 hours per week) or term time over 28 weeks ( 30 hours per week).

Both parents must be in employment* (or the single parent must have a job) and each parent, on average, should earn:

  • A weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW), and
  • Under £100,000 per year.

Visit the Childcare Choices website to get your eligibility code.  You can also use the website to check if your three or four year old child is entitled to funding. If you do not have access to a computer, call the HMRC Customer Interaction Centre on 0300 123 4097 to find out if you qualify for funding or clear up any queries.

Please note that for three year olds, the entitlement starts from the term immediately after the child’s third birthday until the term in which they become four.  It is strongly recommended that parents access the Childcare Choices website now, if they think that they can qualify for the next term along with their child.

The following documents provide useful information on the new entitlement.  Please be aware that all these documents are subject to change as national policy develops:

*This includes self-employed people who meet the average earnings criteria. and the Childcare Choices website will provide more information on childcare in general and childcare tax credits.

Reconfirming your eligibility for 30 hours free childcare and/or tax-free childcare

Details on how parents reconfirm their eligibility for 30 hours free childcare and/or tax-free childcare.

Information on how parents can reconfirm their entitlement to 30 hours of free childcare and/or tax-free childcare.

If you have applied for and/or claimed up to 30 hours of free childcare and/or tax-free childcare, you must re-confirm your eligibility.  The Department for Education (DfE) has said that:

  • You must re-confirm even if your child has not begun their 30 hours placement
  • You must re-confirm three months from the date you applied to get the extra hours
  • You must re-confirm every three months

How to reconfirm

  1. The DfE will send you a text and/or email four weeks before your reconfirmation deadline.  This will prompt you to log into your Childcare Service account.
  2. In the Childcare Service account, you must go to “secure messages” (which you can access at any time).  The reconfirmation section will tell you what your reconfirmation date is.
  3. You have up to four weeks before your reconfirmation date to let the DfE know whether you are still entitled to 30 hours free childcare or tax free childcare.

The reconfirmation process could differ for some parents depending on for example, if:

  • If your circumstances haven't changed (tick a box to confirm this).
  • If your circumstances have changed (you must amend and resubmit your details).
  • If you completed your original application over the phone (please contact the customer interaction centre to reconfirm your eligibility).
  • If you currently have a temporary code (these start with 11).  You must complete a new application. In order to get a permanent code, you must go through your childcare service account.

Sign in to your account to re-confirm your eligibility.


What if I miss the re-confirmation deadline?

If you miss the deadline, or if your circumstances change, you will receive a message to say that your entitlement has stopped, you will have a period of grace where you will be able to keep your chjldcare place.  In this instance, you should talk to your childcare provider.

You will also need to submit another application if you become eligible again for 30 hours or tax-free childcare following the circumstances below. Fallen out of eligibility

  • Missed the reconfirmation deadline

Your provider must be given your code in order to confirm that you child can continue to get a childcare place.

Please note that the information above applies to additional hours placements offered by maintained nursery schools and nursing classes within primary schools.

30 hours reminder for parents

Apply for a 30 hours code in good time. Do it before the summer holidays on

Working tax credit - the childcare provision

Working tax credit is a payment provided by the Government in order to support working families on low incomes. If you have at least one child or if you are bringing up children and paying for registered childcare, you might be able to receive the childcare provision of the working tax credit.

You could have up to 70 per cent of your childcare costs covered by the childcare provision of working tax credit, depending on your individual circumstances. Contact the tax credit helpline on 0845 300 3900 to find out whether you could benefit from this programme or see the childcare tax credits if you just need to know more about this particular type of childcare provision.

More information on this childcare provision is available on the working tax credit fact sheet. 

Read the Childcare element of working tax credit factsheet.

Childcare vouchers

Many employers help their employees to pay for childcare with childcare vouchers. Childcare vouchers, is a payment method used for paying for certain types of childcare.  The employer gives you the option to take a portion of your salary, a ‘salary sacrifice’, in childcare vouchers.  You will not have to pay tax or make National Insurance Contributions (NIC) on the first £55 (per week) or £243 (per month).

As the childcare vouchers are tax and NIC free, parents will save money by paying for their childcare with vouchers rather than from their taxable pay packet. Your employer must be part of the scheme in order for you to be able to receive childcare vouchers.

Care to Learn

Young parents under the age of 20 receive funding support to help with the cost of childcare while they are learning and this is called ‘Care to Learn’.  This form of funding pays up to £175 per child per week towards childcare and travel costs.

In order to receive Care to Learn funding you must:

  • Receive education or look to start some form of education that receives some public funding
  • On the day of your course or learning programme be under 20 years of age
  • Care for your own child or children.

Care to Learn funding can be claimed by either the child’s father or mother, as long as the other parent is unable to provide childcare, or the other parent is not claiming childcare tax credit.  If you have more than one child you can get support for all of them.

Only Ofsted registered childcare providers can be used and the Family Information Service can you help you to find a childcare provider in your area.

Care to Learn will pay the childcare provider directly and any money needed to help with travel costs will be paid straight to the learning or training provider, who will then pass that onto the parent.

For more information on Care to Learn call the helpline on 0800 121 8989 or visit

Disability Access Fund


The Disability Access Fund (DAF) is the new funding system for Early Years’ providers to help children with disabilities or special educational needs. The funding helps with access to Free Entitlement places for Early Years, by supporting providers in making reasonable adjustments to their settings.

Childcare Sufficiency Assessment

Tower Hamlets’ Integrated Early Years’ Service (IEYS) has a statutory duty under the Childcare Act 2006, to ensure that there is sufficient and accessible high quality Early Years and childcare provision.

Before you become a childminder or childcare provider, you need to research what childcare provision is already available in your area to ensure that it is worth having a business.  You must be able to meet the local needs of your community.

The IEYS collects headcount data on a regular basis from existing early years’ providers, which is added to our sufficiency map.  The map gives an overview of the availability and quality of early years’ provision.

IEYS suggests that you do your own market research as well as making use of the headcount data as we do ask about children on roll and their current capacity.