Guide

Help paying for childcare
Last updated: 17 March 2020

Funded early learning and childcare

Funded early learning and childcare is free to parents, but funded by the Scottish Government.

You can get up to 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare a year (around 16 hours a week in term time) if your child is 3 or 4 years old. You may be able to get more funded hours in your area, or access them earlier as the Scottish Government is adding more funded hours.

Visit your local council's website to find out what is available in your area.

There are different funded childcare schemes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If your child is 2 or almost 2 years old

Funded early learning and childcare is available if your child is 2 or over and is or, since they turned 2, has been:

  • looked after by a local council
  • the subject of a kinship care order
  • the subject of a guardianship order

Your child can also get funded early learning and childcare if they have turned 2 and you get one of these benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Job Seeker's Allowance (income based)
  • any income related element of Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity or Severe Disablement Allowance
  • State Pension Credit
  • support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

If you receive tax credits or universal credit, then you can earn a certain amount of money and still be eligible.

If you are on Child Tax Credit:

  • but not Working Tax Credit, then your earnings can be £16,105 or less
  • and Working Tax Credit, then your earnings can be £7,320 a year or less

If you are on Universal Credit, then your household take-home pay can be £610 a month or less.

"Take-home pay" is the money your household receives from work after tax, National Insurance and any pension contributions have been taken off. Your award letter will tell you how much your take-home pay is for the claim period. This should be £610 or less.

Changes to eligibility

When the statutory duty for expansion comes into force, funded early learning and childcare will also be available to 2 year olds who have a care experienced parent.

We're working with local councils to put this in place. If you think you qualify or want more information contact your local council. They can tell you what they offer 2 year olds in your area.

Once your child qualifies for early learning and childcare, they'll stay qualified. Even if you get a job, or their situation with a parent or carer changes. Local councils may offer funded early learning and childcare to people who do not meet this criteria. Check with your local council to find out what happens in your area.

How to claim your funded early learning and childcare place

Visit your local council's website to find out how to claim your funded early learning and childcare place.