Information on charges from free early education childcare providers

Further information on what your free early education provider can charge you for.

Last updated: 24 May 2023

Next review: 22 May 2024

The Charging Summary on Page 33 of the Early years entitlements: operational guidance For local authorities and providers clearly sets out what Childcare providers can charge for and the information that they must provide to Parents/carers. In summary, these are:

  • Government funding is intended to deliver 15 or 30 hours a week of free, high-quality, flexible childcare. It is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables (nappies or trips, etc.), additional hours, or additional activities.
  • Parents can therefore expect to pay for any meals offered by the provider alongside their free childcare hours. Parents/Carers can also expect to pay for other consumables or additional activities offered by the provider, such as nappies or trips.
  • Where parents choose to purchase additional childcare hours,  , consumables or additional activities, from their childcare provider, this is a private matter between the childcare provider and the parent/carer.
  • Providers must offer alternative options for parents/carers. This could include, for example, allowing a parent/carer to bring in their own consumables or a packed lunch, in cases where the meal offered is not suitable for children with specific dietary needs or the parent/carer prefers a lower cost option. Providers should be mindful of the impact of additional charges on the most disadvantaged parents.
  • Providers should ensure that their admissions information is clear and accessible by publishing the number of completely free 15 and 30 hours childcare places they offer.
  • Providers should publish a statement of how they deliver the free childcare hours and any additional charges for optional activities outside of the entitlement. This should set out clearly the charges for meals, additional activities or additional hours.
  • Providers should also ensure they have clear invoicing structures in place for parents/carers. (Waltham Forest Council has produced invoice templates that providers may choose to use)
  • Providers should have a written agreement with all parents/carers that take up a free  childcare place such as the Parental Declaration Form
  • Providers may wish to have a separate agreement for any additional hours, meals and/or optional activities, which clearly sets out for how long the parent has opted to pay the additional charges and the circumstances when the parent can opt out of paying the additional charges.
  • Providers can charge a refundable deposit to parents accessing the free childcare place  for two year olds and the universal and extended entitlement for three and four-year olds. Waltham Forest Council have specified that where a parent/carer is only taking up their free early education entitlement that these deposits must be returned no later than the end of the term after the free early education place has commenced. The purpose of the deposit is to give providers certainty that a parent/carer will take up the childcare place. If a parent/carer fails to take up their childcare place, the provider is not obliged to refund the deposit. We would not expect providers delivering the free early education entitlement to disadvantaged/vulnerable families to charge a deposit as this could be a barrier to taking up a place.
  • childminders may offer a chargeable on-call service as part of their offer to parents. This service could include providing emergency childcare cover whilst the child is in another setting taking up free childcare hours.