Parents in England can now receive 30 hours of free childcare until October this year, regardless of whether their income has fallen below the national minimum wage.
The scheme comes after nurseries were told they must refund parents who paid for childcare they didn't receive during the months of lockdown.
But how does the scheme normally work and why has it temporarily changed?
Who is eligible?
The scheme allows working parents in England with children who are three and four years old to claim 30 hours of free childcare per week, for 38 weeks during the school term, with an approved childcare provider.
However, the scheme normally states that working parents must be set to earn the equivalent of the national minimum wage or over, and work at least 16 hours a week for three consecutive months from the date of their application, to qualify.
But HMRC has now confirmed that parents who were eligible under these rules, who have since experienced a recent drop in income due to the pandemic, are still able to receive childcare support until October 31 2020.
This decision to waive the usual rules also extends to all key workers whose income has exceeded the maximum threshold of £100,000 for the 2020/21 tax year due to the pandemic, allowing them to remain eligible for the service.
To remain eligible however, parents need to frequently reconfirm their eligibility every three months, which can be done via the government website.
What if I’ve recently lost my job due to the pandemic?
Unfortunately, if you've been made redundant, you will not be eligible for the scheme.
What if I’m self employed?
According to the government website, if you are self employed, you should still apply or reconfirm your childcare account if your earnings are now below the national minimum wage, but you would normally expect to earn above it.
What counts as an approved child care provider?
The government defines an approved child care provider as:
A registered childminderA registered nannyA registered playschemeA nursery or club childminder or nanny with a registered childminder agency or childcare agencyA registered schoolA home care worker employed by a registered home care agency
You can check if your local childcare service is registered through the Ofsted Inspection report finder.
How can I apply?
You can apply on the government website here. You will need your National Insurance number and your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), if you’re self-employed.
Vicky Ford, children's minister at the Department for Education, said, "Our 30 hours childcare offer has always been about supporting parents back into work, and in these times, this ambition is now more important than ever.
"That is why we are again extending eligibility for the government’s childcare offers so that no parent loses out because of a fall in income due to coronavirus."