Some foster carers in England and Wales may be able to benefit from the free (government funded) childcare for three- and four-year-olds. Eligibility varies from England to Wales - please see below for more information.
30 hours free childcare in England
The Government in England is extending 30 hours free childcare for three and four-year-olds to children in foster care. (Read more about how and why we campaigned for foster carers to be able to access these hours). Foster carers who work outside of their fostering role will have access to the Government’s 30 hours free childcare offer for three-and-four-year-olds from September 2018, giving them the same access to support as other working families. In order to take up the offer, the foster carer and their partner (if any) must hold additional employment outside of fostering and access must be consistent with the child’s care plan.
Local authorities will determine whether 30 hours childcare is appropriate for the child, and confirm that foster carers meet the eligibility criteria. Local authorities will develop local policies to implement the policy. If a foster carer wishes to apply for the offer they should start discussions with their social worker from now onwards as the policy starts in September. Foster carers will apply through a separate application route which will involve completing a form that will require counter-signing by a designated person, the local authority will determine who the designated person will be.
Three- and four-year-olds can start in a 30 hours place from 1 September, 1 January or 1 April. To ensure a September start, applications should be sent to the responsible local authority by 31 August.
30 hours free childcare in Wales
The Welsh Government is piloting a scheme to provide free early education and childcare to working parents of three- and four-year-olds for 48 weeks of the year. The scheme is being rolled out completely by 2020 and is currently available in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Caerphilly, Flintshire, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea and Blaenau Gwent. From September 2018 it will also be available in Torfaen and Ceridigion, with a phased introduction in Cardiff, Newport, Neath Port Talbot, Conwy and Wrexham.
We are delighted that foster carers in the pilot authorities are included in the offer as long as it's in line with their foster child's care plan and they meet the minimum earnings criteria. Fostering allowances can be counted as proof of earnings for foster carers who wish to access the offer for their own child or their foster child.