Childcare policy is a devolved matter and, as such, the free early education entitlements funded by the Department for Education are available only in England.
The aim of the 30 hours free childcare entitlement is to help eligible working parents of 3- and 4-year-olds in England with the cost of childcare and to enable them to work. In order to be eligible for this, parents must earn the equivalent of working at least 16 hours a week at National Minimum or Living Wage, or be in receipt of an eligible income-replacement benefit, such as the Employment and Support Allowance. Students that work in addition to their studies and meet these requirements are eligible for 30 hours of free childcare a week. Students that do not work and are not in receipt of a qualifying benefit are not eligible. There are no current plans to change this policy.
Students in England are, however, eligible for other forms of childcare support. All 3- and 4-year-olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week, regardless of whether or not their parents are working. Two year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are also eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week.
Other assistance with childcare costs for students in England include the childcare grant for parents in higher education undertaking a full-time undergraduate course. The amount payable is based on 85% of actual childcare costs up to a maximum of £174.22 a week for one child or £298.69 a week for students with 2 or more children.
The government also offers a Parents’ Learning Allowance for full-time undergraduate students with one or more dependent children. For the 2020-21 academic year students could receive up to £1,766 a year depending on household income.
For those in further education, Care to Learn provides childcare support and related travel costs to young parents aged under 20, so they can undertake education or training.