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Mumsnet users share how they use the 15 hours childcare scheme to suit their families

Childcare support is expanding in 2024 and your family may be entitled to 15 hours of childcare for your two-year-old. Find our complete guide to the 15 hours scheme here.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Mar 26, 2024

Two children playing with stacking rings at nursery

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As most of you may already know, from April 2024 there will be significant changes to the current childcare schemes available for working families from the government. 

Last year, it was announced in the 2023 Budget that working parents of two-year-olds may be eligible for 15 hours childcare from this Spring. From September 2024, the 15 hours childcare scheme will be extended to children from nine months and up. 

A recent childcare survey by Mumsnet found that since the start of 2023, over 100 million pageviews of conversations mentioned childcare - showcasing just how important and topical a discussion it is for our community. Plus, it found that 66% of working parents have a need for childcare support. 

Related: Childcare Choices in the UK, a complete guide for parents

However, the process of applying can seem complicated, and recent discussion on our forums show that some Mumsnet users are confused by the process or unaware of the support on offer that could potentially save them thousands. 

So, who is eligible for the new 15 hours childcare scheme? And how do you apply in time? Read on to find out everything you need to know. 

Who is eligible from April 2024? 

  • From April this year, eligible working families of children aged two can access the 15 hours childcare.

  • Each parent will need to individually earn below £100k adjusted net income per year and each at least the equivalent of 16 hours/week at national minimum wage for their age.

  • From September this year, the 15 hours scheme will be further rolled out to children from nine months and up. 

Childcare Choices brings together all the financial support available to parents together in one place, helping families across the UK to find out what support is on offer for them.

Three children playing with toys at nursery

Mumsnet users share their experiences

To help shed light on how the 15 hours scheme works for real parents and different circumstances, we asked Mumsnet users Hayley and Rosie, whose children will be eligible for the new hours in April, to share their experiences so far of using the support schemes available.

How do you think the new 15 hours childcare offer will benefit you and your family? 

Hayley says: “The introduction of support for two-year-olds means I can increase my hours at work to help with the increased costs of living. It also helps cushion some of the yearly increase in fees. 

“[Plus], the [new] Government support means that we are able to save some money to protect us against unforeseen circumstances. It also allows us to afford our mortgage when the fix finishes this year.”

Rosie says: “We are very lucky to have a family who have been able to look after our children from a young age. 

“However, my son started [nursery] at two and a half because we felt he would benefit from that structure earlier on than our daughter needed it. [With the new 15 hours], our youngest will attend at two and a half, too.” 

As a working parent, how will the new government support help you balance work and childcare responsibilities?

Hayley says: “The new Government support will give us much needed financial relief on our childcare bills. 

“Before we receive the funded hours our childcare is costing us more than our mortgage per month, which is just crazy. 

“Without the childcare support I may have had to drop out of work entirely as costs of childcare are increasing yearly.”

Rosie says: “Hugely, it allows us to have one less thing to worry about!”

How do you think more support for childcare can help women in the workforce?

Hayley says: “I think the cost of childcare is a major barrier for most women returning to work. 

“By having access to more funding women can have the choice to return to work without worrying that the cost of childcare outweighs their salary.” 

Related: What childcare choices could you be eligible for? Take our quiz to find out

Child crawling on climbing frame

What isn’t covered in the 15 hours childcare scheme?

The government funding won’t cover extras, such as meals, nappies or sunscreen. If you want this provided by your childcare provider, you would need to speak directly to them to arrange.

How can you apply for 15 hours of childcare?

Applications for the new 15 hours childcare are now open. 

If you haven’t already set up a childcare account through the government website, log on to GOV.UK to do so. From there, you will be able to apply for the new roll out and once approved, it will provide you with a code. 

Make sure you share this code with your childcare provider. You will need to reconfirm your details are up to date every three months.

For more information on the application, head to Childcare Choices for support.

When do the 15 hours childcare start for my child?

The best time to apply will depend on your child’s second birthday. If your child turns two between:

  • January 1st to March 31st, you will get your 15 hours childcare to start a place from April 1st onwards. Apply by 31st March

  • April 1st to August 31st, you will get your 15 hours childcare to start a place from September 1st onwards. Apply by August 31st

  • September 1st and December 31st, you will get your 15 hours childcare to start a place from January 1st onwards. Apply by 31st December

For example, if your child has already turned two last October, they will receive the support from April 2024. However, if they turn two in May 2024, they will not receive the support until September 2024. 

Can I still receive Tax-Free Childcare with the 15 hours scheme?

Tax-Free Childcare can be used to help with childcare costs for school holiday clubs, breakfast or after school clubs, childminders, or nurseries. 

Tax-Free Childcare has helped us to make a big saving each month on childcare and made it worth returning to work...

Hayley, Mumsnet user

You could get up to £2,000 a year per child off your childcare bills for children up to the age of 11, or £4,000 a year up to the age of 16 if your child has a disability.

For every £8 paid into a Tax-Free Childcare account, you automatically receive a top up from the government of £2

You can still receive this support alongside the 15 hours and 30 hours.

Can I still receive Universal Credit Childcare with the 15 hours scheme?

Families claiming Universal Credit Childcare in England, Scotland, and Wales can still claim alongside the 15 hours childcare scheme (Northern Ireland has separate arrangements).

You can qualify for Universal Credit Childcare if your child is 17 and under and both parents are working or fall under one of the allowable exceptions. With this support, up to 85% of costs of childcare can be reclaimed. 

Find out more about your eligibility and how to apply at GOV.UK

To find out more about what childcare offers are available, your eligibility and how to apply for these schemes, visit GOV.UK or the Childcare Choices website and explore the options available to you. It's important to make an informed decision about the schemes that work best for your family's needs and budget.