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15 free hours - how does it work if you have childcare in multiple settings?

16 replies

TwatWeevil · 16/01/2014 14:46

I should know this as this is my DC2, but I don't!

My 2yo DC2 attends two very different childcare settings that charge two very different amounts of money.

Can I elect to take my 15 hours, once DC2 turns 3yo, at the more expensive setting, so we get the maximum saving in fees? Or does it automatically get split 50/50?

My current thinking is just not to do the paperwork with the less expensive childcare setting and just pay for that time as we do at the moment. At the moment that's how we use our childcare vouchers.

Has anyone done this?

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NoSquirrels · 16/01/2014 14:50

You can only claim at one setting (you cannot split between two).

I think (though may be wrong) that you will get the same monetary discount either way i.e. the government pays £12 per session (3 hrs) up to a maximum of 15 hours (so £60 per week for 38 weeks) so whichever setting gets the funding will only give you that discount.

HSMMaCM · 16/01/2014 15:09

You can split it. You should get the 15 hrs completely free. The setting cannot deduct the funding from your bill. You need to see if the more expensive setting offers 15 hrs during the time you go there (ie they might only do 9-12 mon-fri).

TwatWeevil · 16/01/2014 16:23

I thought I remembered from doing the forms for DC1 that there was the option to split, but don't know if it's changed since then, that was a good few years back, and DC1 was only in one setting so I didn't think about it too much.

Thanks for the replies so far. Anyone else? I will also have a good old Google later but searches so far haven't given me the answers.

DC2 already does more than 15 hours anyway, and will continue with that after turning 3yo, so we will continue to pay some of it regardless. I'm just trying to work out the most efficient way of claiming the 15 hours to maximise our savings, if that's how it works!

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snozzlemaid · 16/01/2014 16:31

You can split and can decide how many hours you want from each setting, to the total of 15. However, the least you can claim for one provider is 2.5 hours.

TwatWeevil · 16/01/2014 17:16

What would happen in this scenario? Not my exact numbers, just for illustration.

Setting 1: DC attends 6 hours/week, fees are £5 per hour.
Setting 2: DC attends 15 hours/week, fees are £7 per hour.

It would make sense to claim all of the 15 hours at setting 2, right? And is the full £7 per hour covered or is it capped?

I've just read elsewhere that local authorities should be splitting pro-rata but that very few actually do so.

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HSMMaCM · 16/01/2014 20:16

It would make sense for the parent to use setting 2 and setting 2 would lose out massively when they are paid around £3.50 per hour for that child.

TwatWeevil · 16/01/2014 20:38


I would feel guilty about that, but have paid full-whack for my DCs to go there for years, and they have hiked the fees a couple of times recently. Grin. Worth it though.

(It's actually not the correct £/hour that I've quoted.)

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Littlefish · 16/01/2014 20:55

It depends on the local authority rules. In my local authority, if a child attends 2 settings, then the 15 funded hours must be split between them pro rata. You cannot get all your free hours from one setting, and pay the other directly.

The formula in my local authority is worked out as follows:

Hours at setting A, divided by the total number of hours at both settings, multiplied by 15.

A / (A+B) x 15

So in the example you gave...

setting A = 6 hours
Setting B = 15 hours


6 / 21 x 15 = 4.28 hours funded. Rounded up to 4.5 hours funded.

Therefore 1.5 hours unfunded which would be charged at £5 per hour.

The process would be repeated by setting B who would also issue an invoice for the unfunded hours to the parents.

I spent 2 hours this afternoon working out split funding invoices for various children in the nursery where I work!

TwatWeevil · 16/01/2014 21:14

Thanks Littlefish. I've checked the Local Authority website and there is no mention whatsoever about a pro-rata split. In fact the examples there imply I can do exactly what I hoped, claim the free hours at the more expensive provider. Which would be wonderful!

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HSMMaCM · 16/01/2014 21:40

You don't need to feel guilty. The government pretending they are fully funding all these spaces should feel guilty (but they don't).

DontCallMeDaughter · 16/01/2014 21:46

In our borough (sw london) it wouldn't make any difference as the council only pay a set amount per hour. Although the rules say settings can't charge top up fees, in practice all if the private nurseries here charge extras. In fact I rang one just this morning to ask this very question and was told they just deduct the council hourly payment from the fees and then we'd pay the rest.

The only way to get properly free 15 hours is to use a state funded nursery and the number of places is incredibly limited.

It's a joke.

HSMMaCM · 16/01/2014 21:48

You do need to check what the higher rate setting will charge for the remaining hours, because the hourly rate for a part day might be higher (to make up for the government shortfall).

NoSquirrels · 16/01/2014 23:57

I've obviously got it wrong on not being able to split the hours, as other posters have corrected, but by me (also London, like a PP) you would just get the government discount off the bill, so in monetary terms it wouldn't matter what hourly rate it was, as you would still have a bill to pay and it would average out the same in the end. That is presuming that both nurseries are open for more than 38 weeks of the year.

Probably the only way to be sure is to ask!

TwatWeevil · 17/01/2014 06:26

Thanks for the further replies.

We will likely stick with the hours and settings we are currently using (and paying for in full) as it seems to suit DC2 very well and suits us/my work.

I think we will use the free hours against the more expensive setting (nursery) regardless, even if they charge a top-up fee, as reducing that monthly bill will be a big relief!

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snozzlemaid · 17/01/2014 16:35

If your dc only attends setting 2 for 15 hours and you claim all funded hours with them, they are not allowed to charge a top up. They have to offer those hours completely free to you. They may, however, charge for any meals the child may have.

TwatWeevil · 17/01/2014 17:14

Thanks snozzlemaid.

I probably ought to just ask them.

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