Service Parents: Remember your Free Childcare!

Parents are missing out on 30 hours of free childcare a week because they are not applying for it in time when moving back to England. That is the warning from the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD’s) Directorate of Children and Young People.

Working parents with youngsters aged three to four are eligible and the MOD also funds the entitlement for overseas families. Working parents with children aged 3 and 4 years have now been able to access 30 hours free childcare in England and in overseas location since 01 September 2017.

However, the transfer back to the UK system is not automatic, so troops moving back must apply for an HMRC code by logging on to

Nicole Gordon, SO2 policy in the Directorate of Children and Young People, said: “Prior to being posted back to the UK parents should get online to find out what their entitlement will be and what they need to do to apply.

“England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland offer different hours and the application process may vary.”

Children qualify for free childcare from the term after their third birthday, and parents can apply once they are two years and 36 weeks old.

The 30 hours free childcare codes issued by the HMRC are not valid for use overseas.

To ensure eligible Service personnel and MOD Civilians have access to 30 hours free childcare overseas, the MOD (not HMRC) administers and funds 30 hours free childcare, either free of charge in MOD settings or by means of Overseas Nursery Allowance (ONA) in isolated areas.

More detailed information can be found in DIN201701-122.

Anyone experiencing issues getting a code online can also contact HMRC on 0300 123 4097. In some cases, parents are unable to sign-up online and if eligible, HMRC will be able to issue a manual code.

More detailed information can be in the relevant Defence Instructions and Notices (DIN):

  • 2017DIN01-122 with regards to 30 hours free childcare.
  • 2017DIN01-167 with regards to ONA.


RAF Families Federation. (2019) 30 Hours Free Childcare. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 11 September, 2019].

Soldier. (2019) Warning Over Free Childcare. Soldier: The Magazine of the British Army. September 2019, pp.13.


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