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15 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

Who is eligible?

All 3 and 4 year old children.

Who can apply?

Your childcare provider will apply on your behalf. We advise you to contact your chosen childcare provider the term before you want to use the funding to book your child's place in good time. They will ask you to sign a parental agreement confirming how many hours you want to claim. The funding terms and conditions are listed on the parental agreement. 

You'll need to apply online if you're claiming extra hours under the 30 hours free childcare scheme.

What you will get

You can get up to 15 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year. Some childcare providers may allow you to use your free hours over more weeks by using fewer hours each week. Speak to your chosen childcare provider to find out if you can spread the funding over more weeks. 

You can use the 15 hours at more than one childcare provider. 

Working parents may be able to get an additional 15 hours a week. This could be up to 30 hours free childcare in total. 

The funding doesn't cover the cost of additional services or items and your childcare provider may charge extra for these. These could be:

  • lunch
  • nappies
  • trips
  • music classes

Even so, you must not be asked to pay a fee as a condition of taking up a 15 hours place, and must be offered alternative options such as choosing to provide your own child's lunch, for example. 

When will the free childcare start?

You can get 15 hours free childcare the term after your child's third birthday. This means it would start either in January, April or September. 

Find the date your child is eligible from in this table:

Eligibility dates for 3 and 4 year old free childcare funding
Must be 3 years old byDate child is eligible for funding from
31 December 1 January (spring term)
31 March 1 April (summer term)
31 August 1 September (autumn term)

You can continue to claim the funding until your child starts school. If you choose to defer your child's school place, you can continue to claim until your child reaches compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). 

What types of childcare can I use with the funding?

You can only use the free childcare funding with registered or approved childcare providers who offer early education funding. This includes:

  • childminders
  • pre-schools, playgroups and nurseries
  • out-of-school clubs
  • home care workers working for a registered home care agency

Search for childcare

Search our Family Information Directory to find childcare providers who can offer the scheme. You can filter your search by those offering free early education and childcare.

You can't use the funding with a childcare provider if they're your child's relative. Relative means the child's:

  • grandparent
  • aunt or uncle
  • brother or sister

Can you claim other childcare funding at the same time?

If you're eligible, you can claim through other funding schemes at the same time, including:

Find out which funding schemes work best for your family with the  online childcare calculator

Make a complaint about your childcare provider or funding

Find out what to do if you want to complain about your childcare provider, funding or free childcare.

15 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds in Christchurch

Find out about claiming 15 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds in Christchurch.

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