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.
- Finding local childcare
- 15 hours of free childcare for 2 year olds
- Free Early Education Entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds
- Extended Hours Entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds for working parents
- Can I receive free childcare?
- Care to Learn
- Childcare Sufficiency Assessment
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.
15 hours of free childcare for 2 year olds
Some children may be entitled to 15 hours of free childcare in the term after their second birthday. Early learning for 2-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 may be eligible for 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
Tel: 020 7364 6495 or EL2 dedicated phone line 020 7364 1553
You can also complete the online application form
If you need help completing the application, please contact your local children and family centre.
Free Early Education Entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds (Universal Hours)
All 3 and 4 year old children in Tower Hamlets are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year, beginning in the term after they reach three years of age. This is often taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year (term-time). Although this can be stretched over a full year to better suit the needs of the parent. The Free time would then be applied on a pro-rata basis. The childcare provider 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.
Extended Hours Entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds for working parents
Since September 2017 the government increased the number of hours of free childcare available to eligible working parents of 3 and 4 year olds. The offer consists of a total of 1,140 hours across the year (including the Universal Hours), 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. Parents will be able to use more than one childcare provider to ensure they can use their full entitlement.
Can I receive free childcare?
The HMRC Childcare Choices website determines who can receive funding for childcare.
If you do not have access to a computer, call the HMRC Customer Interaction Centre to find out if you qualify for funding or clear up any queries
Tel: 0300 123 4097
Please note that for 3 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 check now, if you think that you can qualify for the next term along with your child. Please see our guides:
Further information on all forms of Funding for Childcare (including Childcare Tax Credits) can be found at Gov.uk website and/or the Childcare Choices website.
Reconfirming your eligibility for Extended hours free childcare
You must reconfirm your eligibility termly and you can do this by signing in to your account.
See our guide on how to reconfirm eligibility for 30 hours free childcare.
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 may have a period of grace where you will be able to keep your childcare place. In this instance, you should talk to your childcare provider.
Your provider must be given your code in order to confirm that you child can continue to receive the free childcare place.
Please note that the information above also applies to additional hours placements offered by maintained nursery schools and nursery classes within primary schools.
Always apply for a 30 hours code in before the end of term.
For Working families, including self-employed, in the UK. You must be earning under £100k and at least £139 per week (equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or living wage) each.
You are not receiving Tax Credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers.
Child/ren aged 0-11 (or 0-16 if disabled)
For every £8 you pay into an online account, the government will add an extra £2, up to £2,000 per child per year
NB: If your income or working pattern has changed because of COVID-19 check your eligibility before applying or reconfirming.
Tax Credits for Childcare
Please note Tax Credits are closed to new application for most people from 1 February 2019. If you cannot make a new claim for Tax Credits, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit Instead.
Universal Credit for Childcare
This is for working families claiming Universal Credit with children under the age of 17 years and not receiving Tax-Free Childcare. This can cover up to 85% of eligible childcare costs. Details can be found on the Childcare Choices Website.
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’.
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, if 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 Care to Learn website.
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 should research what childcare provision is already available in the area where you wish to set up your business, to ensure that it is sustainable. It is important that your business is able to meet the local needs of the 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. We suggest that you also complete your own market research in the area you are planning to set up your business and not just rely on the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment.