Free childcare: does it exist?

With a staggering one third of parents reporting that they pay more for childcare than their mortgage or rent, it’s easy to see how childcare costs put a huge burden on families’ finances. Pressure has since been mounting on the government to address the childcare funding crisis in the UK. A petition to commission an independent review of childcare funding gathered over 100,000 signatures, calling into question why more isn’t being done to help families with the crippling costs.

Tax-Free and funded hours are some of the ways to make the cost more affordable. But does free childcare actually exist?

Looking for childcare where you can use funded hours and Tax-Free childcare?

What are funded hours?

15 funded hours of childcare per week are available to all children aged 3–4 in England. This becomes 30 free hours per week if your income is above £142 per week, and below £100,000 per year. 

Sadly, funded hours can’t be used for children under the age of 2. If you don’t meet the minimum income criteria, you’re only eligible for 15 hours funded childcare — covering just 1.5 full days a week in a nursery. Additionally, funded hours are available term-time only. Spread over the year, they cover much less than 15 or 30 hours per week. 

Even taking funded hours into account, one in four parents said they had to cut down on necessities like food and heating to afford childcare. This figure rises to over half of single parents— a stark reminder that funded hours aren’t enough to alleviate the cost burden on families. Free childcare? Not really.

What about Tax-Free childcare?

Tax-Free childcare gives families a 20% reduction in costs, up to £2000 per year. Like funded hours, there are eligibility criteria for tax-free childcare— you have to earn at least £142 per week, and under £100,000 per year. 

Although Tax-Free childcare covers 20% of the cost, families are still (frustratingly) left with 80% of the bill. With nursery fees rising in over a third of local authorities, it’s clear that Tax-Free childcare does not cover enough of the cost.

So… does free childcare actually exist?

Unless you’re lucky enough to have friends or family nearby who are happy to look after your children for free, sadly free childcare is pretty much non-existent. 

However, there are some green shoots. ‘Approved’ childcare providers (registered and inspected by Ofsted), such as our Home Nursery service, let you combine Tax-Free and funded hours for 3-4 year olds to bring the cost down. Using both means maximising your savings and getting as close as possible to “free childcare”. 

And with the government recently rejecting the request by thousands of parents to examine childcare costs, piling the pressure on those in power is more important than ever. At Koru Kids we continue to lobby for change—follow us on Instagram if you want to be part of the conversation.

Looking for an approved childcare provider?

Some of our home nurseries in London with Tax-Free and funded hours:

  • Annette‘s home nursery, Enfield
  • Claire‘s home nursery, Southall
  • Nihal‘s home nursery, Edmonton
  • Fatema‘s home nursery, Shooters Hill
  • Martine‘s home nursery, Peckham

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