Finding suitable childcare for your children can be tricky, but there are lots of ways to help you find different types of childcare in your area. If you are looking to put your child into childcare for the first time or are due to move and need to change childcare setting, we advise that you identify suitable childcare options as soon as possible and establish if there are spaces or whether there is a waiting list. We recommend putting your child’s name down for a place or onto a waiting list as soon as your child is born or as soon as you have had a move confirmed.
If you are moving be sure to give your current nursery/childcare setting plenty of notice that you are leaving so that you do not incur any additional costs. If you claim the government funded free hours for 3-4 year olds you will also have to change the details of the setting that you are claiming from.
Each local authority is responsible to ensuring that there is enough suitable childcare provision in their area. Most local authorities have a childcare directory on their council websites which will list all of the OFSTED registered local nurseries, preschools, childminders and playgroups.
Local childcare services and directories can be found via the search facility on the GOV.UK site:
- Find nursery school place
- Find registered childminder
- Find free early education (check your entitlements and within the timings required)
- Find Sure Start Children’s Centre
There are a number of other websites offering support to find childcare options in your area:
- childcare.co.uk is the UK’s largest online, government-endorsed childcare platform.
- Childminders in England and Wales can be located from the Government website here.
- Before and after school and holiday clubs in England and Wales can be found here.
- In Scotland, information on a variety of childcare settings can be found from the Scottish Family Information Service and you can find a place here.
- The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) website offers helpful advice about choosing childcare, as well as information for people considering childminding as a career here.
Inspection reports for approved childcare providers can be found via the following websites:
- England: Ofsted approved childcare providers
- Wales: Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW)
- Scotland: Scottish Care Inspectorate
- Northern Ireland: Early Years Teams
Approved childcare can also include care provided by a maintained or independent school that is registered with the relevant inspection body. If your child is over 5, the childcare must be outside school hours and on the school premises.
Help with childcare costs
The government have a website that provides information on of the different childcare support options that are available to you for children aged 0-16. The Childcare Choices website includes information and links on where to apply for tax-free childcare offers. You must use ‘approved childcare’ settings to qualify for help. Click here for a step-by-step guidance.
For more information on what level of childcare support you may be eligible for, there is childcare calculator available here.
MOD Childcare vouchers are available to Service personnel. The scheme is now closed to new entrants. For those that are already registered it enables you to convert part of your salary into vouchers before your usual tax and NI contributions are taken. This means that you only have to pay the tax and NI on what’s left, saving you up to £933 per year. Find out more here. Childcare vouchers may affect the amount of tax credits you get. Find out more about whether you would be better off taking childcare vouchers, and or applying for Tax-Free Childcare by checking here.
Free ‘wraparound’ childcare pilots are rolled out from September 2020 following recent announcement. RAF High Wycombe and RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire will be the first bases to offer the scheme, with service personnel based in Catterick and Plymouth able to access the pilot scheme from January 2021. At least 1 parent has to be an Armed Forces Regular and both parents have to be in paid employment.
England – 15 and 30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds
All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get free early education or childcare.
Some 2-year-olds are also eligible for 15 hours free childcare, for example if you get certain benefits.
The free early education and childcare:
- must be with an approved childcare provider
- stops when your child starts in reception class (or reaches compulsory school age, if later)
Find out more and apply here.
Scotland – up to around 16 hours a week in term time if your child is 3 or 4 years old
Some 2-year-olds are also eligible for free childcare, for example if you get certain benefits.
Find out more and get a link to your council to claim your funded place here.
A parents’ guide to early learning and childcare in Scotland was produced by Audit Scotland to help to provide clearer information to families. You can find it here.
Wales – a minimum of 10 hours of free, part-time Foundation Phase education in a school, or funded nursery, in the term following their third birthday
The Welsh government plans to provide 30 hours a week of free early education and childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds in Wales, for 48 weeks of the year. The current free early education provided by Foundation Phase will form part of this offer. The pilot scheme started in September 2017. You can find out more here.
Northern Ireland – Tax-Free Childcare or childcare vouchers
Find out more here.
Childcare provided by relatives
If you live in England or Scotland –
You can only get help paying for childcare by a relative (for example a grandparent) if:
- they’re a registered childminder and care for your child outside your home
- you’re paying them using Universal Credit, tax credits or childcare vouchers
You can’t get help for childcare provided by your partner or paid for by the free early education and childcare scheme.
If you live in Northern Ireland –
You can only get help paying for childcare provided by a relative if all of the following apply:
- they’re in a childcare approval scheme in Northern Ireland
- they care for your child outside your home
- they care for at least one other child that isn’t related to you
If you live in Wales –
You can’t get help paying for childcare provided by a relative.
Childcare support in emergency or crisis
The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Children’s Fund (RNRMCF) can offer financial support towards childcare costs in times of emergency or family crisis. If you need help with extra childcare support, if for instance one child is in hospital which means you need help with your other children outside of your usual childcare or if your family is experiencing marital difficulties or breakdown, the RNRMCF can help. They are on hand to help you to ensure that your children feel more settled, particularly if moving to a new home or if you are unable to look after them in an emergency situation. They are generally able to respond to an emergency situation within a couple of hours.
Phone: Monday – Friday 0800-1600, 02392 639534
Private fostering (eg during deployment)
Are you are deploying or working away for more than 28 days, and organising childcare with someone who is not your child’s parent? Please check the regulations regarding private fostering. If an individual is looking after someone else’s child for more than 28 days they must notify their local council – failure to do so is a criminal offence. You can find out more about Private Fostering here.
The law on leaving your child on their own
Government guidance is here. The NSPCC has produced a guide to help you to decide when it is safe for your child to be home on their own, and what you can do if they are too young. Find out more here.
Extended Free Childcare Overseas
In overseas locations, MOD provides services (or access to services) that, so far conform in type, scope and standard to that required by legislation in England (but paying due regard to the equivalent legislation in the Devolved Administrations).
The 2006 Childcare Act introduced 15 hours of childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year for 3 and 4 year olds free of charge. In overseas locations the MOD currently delivers this entitlement through places at MOD-provided settings or through access to the MOD Overseas Nursery Allowance.
From 01 September 2017, there has been an extension of the entitlement and an offer of an additional 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year of free childcare for children that are eligible. The additional 15 hours are available to families where either parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family) a minimum of 16 hours each per week. Parents each earning £100,000 or more do not qualify for the additional entitlement.
The additional entitlement was introduced on 1 September 2017 across England and is mirrored in MOD locations overseas, using the same eligibility criteria defined under the 2016 Childcare Act above. In overseas locations where the MOD-provided settings have sufficient capacity, the additional entitlement will be provided through those settings, free of charge. Free childcare cannot be claimed when using childminders or nannies. In overseas locations where there are no MOD-provided settings, or where MOD-provided settings lack sufficient capacity, the additional entitlement will be provided through the MOD Overseas Nursery Allowance. The entitlement applies to eligible Service Personnel and entitled Civilians only. The latter means UK Based Civil Servants posted overseas or Specially Recruited for Overseas Service. Fee-paying contractors cannot apply.
Eligibility criteria for the additional 15 hours
The MOD currently delivers, 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year, free early education to all Regular Service Personnel, Reserve Personnel undertaking Full Time Reserve Service (Full Commitment) (FTRS FC) and entitled Civilians who are assigned overseas where they are accompanied by their eligible children, through places at MOD-provided settings or through access to the MOD Overseas Nursery Allowance. In order to be eligible for the additional 15 hours of free childcare each parent must be working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family) a minimum of 16 hours each per week. These limits are measured for eligibility purposes on average over a period of three months on a reasonable expectation basis. In order to be eligible for the additional 15 hours of free childcare, the maximum income per parent is £100,000 per annum. For Dependants working overseas who pay Income Tax to HMRC or devolved equivalents, confirmation of eligibility is required from their employer (DBS). For Dependants working overseas as Locally Engaged Civilians (LECs) not paying Income Tax to HMRC or devolved equivalents, it will be the responsibility of the local Command through the LEC employer or agency, to confirm their eligibility. Dependants working overseas on the local economy will be required to provide proof from their employer in order to confirm their eligibility.
To ensure stability for children, parents and providers, the government has introduced a grace period should families cease to be eligible, before the existing entitlement is withdrawn. This grace period will be mirrored, where reasonably practicable, by the MOD.
How to apply
If you currently qualify for the free 15 hours in an MOD-provided setting and fulfill the above eligibility criteria for the additional 15 hours entitlement, please complete this Application Form.
If you qualify for MOD Overseas Nursery Allowance and fulfill the above eligibility criteria for the additional 15 hours entitlement, please complete this Application Form for MOD Overseas Nursery Allowance.
Please contact SO2 Policy, DCYP for further information at DCYP-DCYP-Mailbox@mod.gov.uk
Find out more about childcare for Service children here.