Error sees small number of parents in Northern Ireland mistakenly invited to register for 15 hours free childcare

It has come to our attention today (Friday 9 February 2024) that a small number of parents in Northern Ireland have received letters inviting them to apply for a code for the expansion of the 30 hours free childcare scheme, which is only available to families in England. These letters were sent in error. As the 30 hours free childcare scheme is not available to families in Northern Ireland, parents living in Northern Ireland should not have received the letters inviting them to apply for the extended scheme. HMRC has confirmed to us that there are only a very small number of families affected by this error.

From April 2024, eligible working parents of two years olds in England are entitled to access 15 hours free childcare. This also includes some families who are in receipt of certain benefits. Applications for this support via the Childcare Choices web portal opened in January and require parents to claim a code which will allow them to set up the childcare account. Eligible parents in England can apply for the code here.

Anyone with questions about what financial support they are entitled to with their childcare costs, and how to claim it, can call the Family Benefits Advice Service on Freephone 0800 028 3008. Unfortunately our team cannot resolve queries relating to technical issues with the Childcare Choices portal, or application for codes – these should be directed to the Childcare Choices helpline on 0300 123 4097.

Further extension of 30 hours free childcare scheme

Further expansions of the free childcare places in England are planned for later in the year. From September 2024, 15 hours of free childcare will be extended to all children from the age of nine months and then from September 2025, working parents of children under the age of five will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week.

This support is currently only available in England. Our charity continues to campaign, on behalf of parents and the childcare sector, for greater support with childcare in Northern Ireland and is actively engaged with Ministers in the new Executive to ensure this is a priority.