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Free funding for 3 and 4 year olds

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. If this is taken during term-time only, this would work out as 15 hours a week over 38 weeks of the year.

From September 2017, the government increased the free early education or childcare for families who meet certain criteria to 30 hours a week (if used over 38 weeks a year).

Parent's information

The date you start claiming depends on your child's birthday.

Child's birthdayWhen you can claim
1 January to 31 March
The beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April - 31 August

The beginning of term on or after 1 September

1 September - 31 December
The beginning of tern on or after 1 January

Your child remains eligible for the universal entitlement up to and including the term in which they turn five but once your child starts attending school, their entitlement stops.

Your child can start school in the September after which they turn four and must be in full time education at the start of the term after which they turn five (at this point the Free Entitlement funding will stop).


Places are provided by a variety of childcare providers in the maintained, private, voluntary and independent sectors including childminders.

To find childcare in your local area, please search our online childcare directory or contact us on the Childcare Information Line 0300 003 4561.


No, your provider should not charge you for any of your entitlement hours.

The fees that would normally be charged by your early years provider for these hours must be removed from your invoice.

Your provider may charge you for additional services such as snacks or specific activities, or extra childcare that is additional to the free entitlement place.

These additional services cannot be offered as a condition of you accessing your free nursery entitlement place.

You cannot be charged administration fees if your child is only accessing the free early education entitlement.

If additional childcare is taken up, then an early years provider can charge this fee.


Yes, funding is allocated on the basis of where your child is educated, rather than where they live 


You don’t need to do anything, except inform your early years provider that you wish to access the free entitlement through them.

Your provider is responsible for claiming the funding for your child from Wiltshire Council, and will ask you to confirm your child’s details and sign a termly headcount form.


You can split your child’s entitlement between a maximum of two early years providers at any one time: three if your child has special educational needs and one early years provider is a district specialist centre.


We will follow up any complaints received from parents about the charging of fees or failure to pass on the benefit of the free entitlement.

You can contact us in a number of ways:

Online: Complete a parent complaint form

By email: earlyyears@wiltshire.gov.uk

By telephone: 01225 757972

By post:

Free Entitlement Funding
2nd floor, County Hall
BA14 8JN


Where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family), and each parent earns, on average: 

  • a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW), and less than £100,000 per year 
  • The minimum income requirement for a parent (over the age of 25) is £120 a week. The minimum wage for ages 21 to 24 is £7.05 an hour, therefore, the minimum income requirement for this group is £112.80 a week. 

A parent will expect (on average) to earn this amount over the coming three months. The eligibility criteria have been designed to accommodate parents with fluctuating incomes and those who are about to start working or increase their hours. 

For example, a parent who is on a zero-hours contract will get work some weeks, but not others, and may not know in advance if they will have work in any given week. If, on average they work two weeks out of every three, and when they are working they get 25 hours of work at the minimum wage, their child will qualify for 30 hours of free childcare.
Families where one parent does not work (or neither parent works) will not usually be eligible for the extended entitlement EXCEPT where:

  • Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity, adoption leave, or on statutory sick pay
  • One parent is employed and one parent either has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring, or is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits 

Parents can be employed or self-employed.

Parents are required to apply for the additional 15 hours of free childcare through HMRC.


Provider's information

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. If this is taken during term-time only, this would work out as 15 hours a week over 38 weeks of the year.  Where children attend for fewer hours per week or a provider is unable to supply the maximum number of hours/funded weeks, the level of funding attracted will be prorated.  

From September 2017, the government increased the free early education or childcare for families who meet certain criteria to 30 hours a week (if used over 38 weeks a year) - this is known as 'extended' entitlement. 

See Which families will benefit from the extended entitlement of 30 hours per week from September? above for the list of criteria for this extended entitlement.

It is the early years provider’s responsibility to check that children are eligible for funding. They should ask to see birth certificates if they are in any doubt.  Wiltshire council will give early years providers access to an online checking system to look up a parent’s eligibility for 30 hours per week. 

Funding is allocated on the basis of where the child is educated, rather than where they live. This means that all children attending should be claimed for whether they live in or outside Wiltshire.

Date of birth

Summer funded period 2019 (terms 5 and 6)

Autumn funded period 2019(terms 1 and 2)Spring funded period 2020(terms 3 and 4)
01/04/14 - 31/08/14
Compulsory school age
Compulsory school age
01/09/14 -31/12/14
Compulsory school age
01/01/15 - 31/03/15
01/04/15 - 31/08/15
01/09/15 - 31/12/15
01/01/16 - 31/03/16
01/04/16 - 31/08/16
Too young
01/09/16 - 31/12/16
Too young
Too young

The Department for Education's statutory guidance for local authorities on the provision of early education and childcare details the national conditions which providers must work to in order to qualify for free entitlement.

Wiltshire’s Local Code of Practice was developed in consultation with the Early Years’ reference group and summarises the local conditions providers must comply with in order to take the free entitlement. It also provides information about the administrative processes involved in claiming it.

Funding type
provider type
2019 - 2020 hourly rate
2 year olds
All childcare providers
3 and 4 year olds
All childcare providers

Wiltshire’s early years providers receive funding for eligible three and four year old children on a monthly basis. The amount a group receives is calculated using a Single Funding Formula. Initial payments are calculated and paid according to an annual provisional funding estimate. This is revised throughout the year as the Early Years & Childcare team is provided with more accurate information about the actual numbers of qualifying children attending a provider during three funding periods - this is normally captured through the 'Headcount' exercise. The table below under 'What happens when' provides more information.


Early Years Pupil Premium is additional funding available to early years providers delivering funded hours to eligible three and four year old children. Funding has been set a national rate of 53p per hour and could give an early years provider an additional £302 per year per eligible child accessing the full 570 hours with them.

Children do not need to access the full entitlement to be eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium as funding will be calculated on a pro-rata basis.

For more information have a look at the Pupil Premium page.


The Disability Access Fund is additional annual funding available to early years providers delivering funded hours to eligible three and four year old children.  The following children will be eligible:

  • child is accessing three and four year old entitlement, and;
  • child is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance

Funding has been set at a national rate of £615 per financial year, and this will be paid as a lump sum payment to one early years provider nominated by the parent.  Where a child attends more than one early years provider, the parent must nominate only one to receive the full funding.  

Children do not need to access the full entitlement at a provider to be eligible, nor for a provider to be nominated to receive the Disability Access Fund payment. Once payment has been made, no further payment will be made to a new early years provider if the child moves to a new provision during the financial year.  

Funding period dates
Summer 2019
1 April - 31 August        

Autumn 2019
1 Sept - 31 December  
Spring 2020
1 January - 31 March             
Funded weeks (min - max)
13 - 22
14 - 18
11 - 13
Maximum number of funded hours

195 universal
195 extended

210 universal
210 universal

165 universal
165 extended

Mandatory estimated hours confirmation online survey deadline (you must complete this if you wish to receive monthly payments)

29 March 2019
6 Sept 2019
8 Jan 2020
Headcount week
2 - 8 May 2019
3 - 9 Oct 2019
10-16 Jan 2020
Headcount paperwork submission deadline
10 May 2019
11 Oct 2019
20 Jan 2020
Statement of grant amendment submission deadline
28 June 2019
29 Nov 2019
28 Feb 2020
Mid-term adjustment paperwork submission deadline
6 Sept 2019
10 Jan 2020
24 April 2020

Mid-term adjustment payment (2 year olds)

Mid-term adjustment payment (3 and 4 year olds)

21 Oct 2019

31 Dec 2019

21 Feb 2020

31 March 2020

22 May 2020

31 Aug 2020

Monthly payments

Dates in bold and italics are when the
EYPP and DAF lump sums are paid. 

22 April 2019

20 May 2019

21 June 2019

22 July 2019

23 Aug 2019

20 Sept 2019

21 Oct 2019

22 Nov 2019

20 Dec 2019

20 Jan 2020

21 Feb 2020

20 Mar 2020


Want to deliver the Free Entitlement Funding?

Early Years free entitlement funding is provided by Central Government.  To receive free entitlement payments, you must be fully registered with Ofsted or childminding agency.

Further information about delivering the Free entitlement funding can be found under the useful information section - New providers document.


To claim Early Years free entitlement funding you are agreeing to the Wiltshire Council Provider Agreement and will need to sign and return the Agreement Declaration September 2017 form. Signed documents can be returned to earlyyears@wiltshire.gov.uk or via the post.  These documents can be found under useful information.

We will also need your bank account details, please complete the New provider free entitlement form.


Please allow 6 weeks from the date you submitted your bank details and signed Agreement Declaration September 2017, whichever is the latter, for a funding account to be opened and payment made.


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Last updated: 9 January 2020 | Last reviewed: 9 January 2020