Universal childcare information
Good quality childcare and early education is not only good for children; it gives parents more freedom to work, study or train for a job too. But juggling work with bringing up children is not easy. Choosing childcare and early education is a big step for you and your child. There are lots of differences between types of childcare, early education or pre-school services and also between individual childminders, nurseries, nursery classes or out-of-school clubs. Try and give yourself enough time to visit several possible options in your area to get a good idea of what could suit your child. It can be a good idea to take your child with you to see how staff interact with him or her.

Additional information for children with SEND
There is a wide range of childcare provision that is available to parents to access for their children including nurseries and childminders. Some family wellbeing centres and schools also have childcare provision. 2-year-olds for whom Disability Living Allowance is paid are entitled to free early education. All early years settings that offer the free 15 hour entitlement for 2, 3, and 4 year olds will offer childcare for all children, regardless of special educational need or disability (SEND). All early years settings have a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) that can be contacted to discuss your child’s needs prior to attending the early years setting and who co-ordinates the provision for children with SEND once they start to attend the setting.  All setting SENCOs have access to the Sefton SEN and Inclusion Service – Early Years team and Sefton Early Years Quality Improvement Officers who support the SENCOs and other staff members in the setting in order to meet the needs of children with SEND who attend the early years setting.

Expansion of Childcare

From April 2024, working parents of 2-year olds will be able to access 15 hours childcare support.

From September 2024, 15 hours childcare support will be extended to working parents of children from the age of 9 months to 3-year olds.

From September 2025, working parents of children under the age of 5 will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare a week.

Like the existing offer, depending on your provider, these hours can be used over 38 weeks of the year (during school term time), or up to 52 weeks if you use fewer than your total hours per week.

Are you looking for advice to help you choose the right childcare?

Click on the links below for advice and guidance to help you choose the right childcare:

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Are you looking for a list of childcare providers available in your area?

Click on this link to see a full list of childcare providers in Sefton

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30 hours free childcare for working parents

An additional 15 hours of free childcare is available for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.

Is my child eligible? 

The additional 15 hours of free childcare is for families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone-parent family), and each parent earns the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage, and earns less than £100,000 a year.

Allowances are made for maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or if a parent is unable to work due to disability or caring responsibilities.

The additional 15 hours childcare will only be available if you continue to meet the above criteria.

Who provides this childcare? 

Participating schools with nursery provision, day nurseries, out of school clubs, childminders and playgroups.  It will be possible for your child to access up to two providers to access their entitlement.  A combination of hours can be negotiated with your childcare provider.

How to apply

To see if you are eligible and apply online, please visit: to get a reference number to take to the nursery/childminder. The childcare provider will need the reference number to confirm the additional hours.

Parents should apply when the child turns 3 to ensure Government funding is available the following term. 

Eligibility codes must be obtained before the end of term to claim funding for the following term i.e. Apply for a code before deadline date of:

31st December for January-March funding (Spring Term)

31st March for April-July funding (Summer Term)

31 August for September-December funding (Autumn Term)

Codes obtained after the deadline date will not be verified.  Codes have to be refreshed every 3 months and reminders will be sent to you direct from your Gateway account.

N.B. When you apply for the 30 hours free childcare online, it is a joint application with the Tax Free Childcare, so if you are better off with Tax Credits or Universal Credit then you should opt out of this application.

If there are any changes in your circumstances once you receive the additional hours, you must notify HMRC to stop any Credits being paid and avoid building up a debt that will need to be paid back.

For further information, you can contact the Families Information Service on 0345 140 0845 or email

Extending 30 hours to children in Foster Care

From September 2018, children in foster care will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare giving foster families the same support as other families. 

Children in foster care who are aged 3 or 4 years old will be able to receive 30 hours free childcare, if the following criteria are met:

  • Accessing the extended hours is consistent with the child's care plan; and
  • Where there is a single foster parent family, the foster parent is engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent; or
  • Where there are two foster parents in the same fostering household, both are engaging in paid work outside their role as a foster parent.

Foster Parents - for further information and how to apply, please contact the child's social worker.

Interested in setting up a new childcare business or as a childminder?

Sefton Council offers advice and support to set up a new day nursery, pre-school playgroup, out of school provision or as a registered childminder.

This would include advice on completing registration applications and guidance on meeting Ofsted requirements, such as support in the preparation for Ofsted inspection, advice on staff ratios and qualifications, EYFS, statutory safeguarding and welfare requirements.

For more information please visit our "Setting up a new childcare business" page.

For more detailed information on becoming a regsitered childminder please visit our childminding page.

Alternatively, you can contact Sefton Families Information Service on 0345 140 0845 or email


Last Updated

Last updated: 10/10/2023

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