Help with your childcare fees

There are a number of different types of government help with childcare fees, the main ones being the tax-free childcare system, and the government funded childcare hours. Details about both types of help and also details about universal credit and tax credit for childcare can be found at the website.

Tax free childcare is a government initiative intended to help eligible working parents with the cost of childcare.  It is aimed at families with children aged 0-11 (or up to 17 if their child has a disability) and can save families up to £2,000 per child per year (or £4,000 for a child with a disability).  

It’s possible to access tax free childcare alongside the funded hours, and it’s available to all working families, including parents who are self-employed.  To be eligible parents must need to earn at least the equivalent of the national minimum wage for 16 hours per week, but less than £100,000 per year.  For every £8 parent put into their tax-free childcare account, the government will add £2.  

Parents can then use the money in their tax-free childcare accounts to pay childcare providers, Mulberry Bush is registered with the tax-free childcare scheme. 

From April 2024, two-year-old children of working families are entitled to 15 funded hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.  This amounts to 570 hours per year.  Two-year-old children whose parents are receiving government financial support have been entitled to two-year-old funding for a number of years already. 

All three and four-year-old children are also entitled to 15 funded hours per week for 38 weeks of the year, amounting to 570 hours per year (sometimes known as the universal entitlement).    

Three and four-year-old children from working families are also entitled to claim an additional 15 funded hours per week (1140 hours per year in total).  This means they are entitled to 30 funded hours per week in total, for 38 weeks of the year.  

From September 2024, the children of working families aged nine months upwards will also become entitled to 15 funded hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.

You can access tax free childcare from the end of maternity leave.  Your child becomes entitled to receive funded hours funding from the start of the term following their second and third birthdays (as relevant).  The terms start in September (Autumn), January (Spring) and April (Summer). 

This means if your child turns two in November, they will become entitled to two-year-old funding from the start of the Spring term in January. If your child turns three in May, they will become entitled to three and four-year-old funding from the start of the Autumn term in September. 

As our nurseries are open for 51 weeks a year, only closing for Christmas week, we ‘stretch’ the funded hours entitlement throughout the whole year.  This means that we offer the funding over 48 weeks of the year (not 38), ensuring fewer weeks of full fees for families.  The remaining four weeks of the year where funding isn’t available are Christmas week when the nurseries are closed, the first week of January when fees are already reduced, and the last two weeks of August when children leave us to go to school. 

During funded weeks at Mulberry Bush, if children are entitled to 15 funded hours per week, they will access 12 funded hours, 6 per day, based on a minimum attendance of two days per week.  If children are entitled to 30 funded hours per week, they will access 24 hours funded hours, 8 per day based on a minimum attendance of three days per week. 

The remaining hours are used to ‘stretch’ the funding for additional weeks where there wouldn’t usually be any funding.  

Whether or not the stretched funding is available for the entire year at nursery will depend on when each child becomes entitled to the funding (see above). It will only be possible to stretch over the whole 48 weeks of an academic year (i.e. from September until the following mid-August) if a child has become entitled to funding from the Autumn term. If a child becomes entitled to the funding from January, then the funding will run until the end of July, and if they become entitled to the funding from April then it will run until the middle of July.

Exact details as when an individual child’s funding will be able to be stretched until will be stated in the Parent Agreements which nursery produces and which are signed by parents.

Once children who are already attending nursery become eligible for funded hours we will automatically convert some of their days of attendance to include the funded hours.   

On each funded day we also charge an all-inclusive fee, reflecting the cost of additional hours, consumables and all meals, drinks and snacks during the child’s funded sessions.   The all-inclusive fee is necessary because the funded childcare hours are underfunded by the Government and do not represent the cost of providing excellent quality childcare.  

We do offer a number of places at each of our nurseries for children to attend for just the funded hours where no additional payment is needed.  These are usually available on our quieter days of attendance.  Please speak to the managers of your nursery to check availability. 

For the funding which is only available for working families, eligible parents will need to apply for an eligibility code from  This code will need to be provided to nursery and eligibility will need to be reconfirmed online every three months. Without an eligibility code working families will not be able to access the funded hours.  Nursery is not able to obtain codes on parents’ behalf.   

Codes are not needed for the universal entitlement for three and four-year-old children which is universally available, nor for the two-year-old funding for children whose families receiving financial support, which needs to be applied for with the Local Authority.  

All parents accessing funded hours at Mulberry Bush will be required to sign a Parent Agreement produced by nursery.  This will be needed annually in most cases, but more often if a child is accessing funded hours only.  

The government allows each childcare provider to work out how best to implement the funded hours system to make it work for their nursery and the majority of their families.  When deciding how we implemented it, we spoke to other nurseries and sector organisations.  It is clear that everyone has chosen to operate the funding slightly differently.  

There will be other nurseries offering more flexibility than we do, and in some cases, more availability of funded hours without additional fees, but they will tend to be nurseries who have less demand for their places.  Unfortunately, we aren’t able to make individual arrangements as to how the funded hours are claimed by different parents, as we have hundreds of families accessing the funded hours across our nurseries.

We have of course discussed the way we operate the funding with Bury LA in great detail and they are entirely in agreement with the way we do it.  Should you have any questions or queries at all, please speak to one of the management team based at your nursery.

Mulberry Bush Nursery Group are a group of five family run and owned children’s nurseries based in Bury, Lancashire. Founded in 1990, we are the longest established nursery group in the North West.

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