Free early education for 3 and 4 year olds - children in foster care

All children are eligible for 15 universal hours of free early education. Children in foster care may be eligible for 30 hours of early education if it is consistent with their care plan and foster carers are in paid work outside of their role as a foster parent.

What you should do before you apply

You will need to speak to the child's social worker before applying. If they agree, complete the foster care 30 hour application form.

Once you and your partner have signed, the form must be counter-signed by your social worker or family support worker. They should then return it to the nursery education funding team at

If your application is successful, you will get your eligibility code directly from Herefordshire Council.

This form is only for children in foster care. If you are applying for your own children visit GOV.UK.

Criteria for 30 hours free childcare for children in foster care

  • Herefordshire is the corporate parent of the child - if the corporate parent is another local authority you must contact them for an application form
  • The child is eligible for 3 and 4 year old funding (in the term after their third birthday), or will be in the next 10 weeks
  • It is in the child's care plan that attending an early education setting for the additional hours is in their best interest
  • All foster parents in the household are working outside of fostering, or if a couple, at least one parent is working and the other parent is in receipt of a qualifying benefit
  • The foster parents are European Economic Area (EEA) nationals or have a visa allowing them to have access to public funds
  • The foster parents must live in England
  • The foster parents are working, but earning less than £100,000 net per year or
  • Non-foster parents in the household must meet the standard criteria for a 30 hour code:
    • Working and earning the equivalent of 16 hours per week at the minimum wage/national living wage
    • Earning less than £100,000 per year and
    • EEA national or have a visa allowing them to have access to public funds

Herefordshire Council will confirm your eligibility, and if your application is successful, you will receive your eligibility code by email from

Please allow three weeks for these to be received and processed.

Once your code has been issued, it can be used at any early education provider that is registered to offer Nursery Education Funding in any English local authority to access the additional hours.

Your code will need to be renewed by the local authority every three months, and we may need to contact you or your social worker to confirm you still meet the criteria. If your circumstances change you may cease to be eligible, however, you will be able to access the additional hours until the end of the grace period, which is usually the end of term.

Problems with your code

If there are issues with your code at the childcare provider, please contact us at Childcare Choices will not be able to help you with eligibility codes for foster children.