Expansion to early childcare entitlements: eligibility codes issued and validated


Codes issued

‘Codes issued’ counts the number of successful applications made between 2nd January 2024 and 31st March 2024 (inclusively) by parents/carers of children aged two at 1st April 2024. Applications were successful when a parent/carer (and partner where applicable) met the defined income eligibility criteria. If a parent/carer is eligible, they are given an eligibility code which they then take to their chosen childcare provider to access the offer. 

A parent/carer can start claiming their entitlement place the term after their child reaches the relevant age of eligibility (two years old in April 2024 or nine-months old in September 2024 and September 2025) or the term following the date their eligibility code was issued (whichever is later). This publication focuses on the new entitlement expansion, and so excludes children who would have turned three before the start of the term and become eligible for the existing entitlements, including the working parent additional 15 hours for three- and four-year-olds (see Provision for Under 5s publication for data on these children). 

This means that the number of children eligible for funded childcare will increase through the academic year as more children reach an eligible age. By full rollout (September 2025) children will be eligible for the full 30 hours entitlement from the term after they turn nine months until they reach compulsory school age, the term following their fifth birthday. 

Codes validated

Childcare providers or local authorities will validate all eligibility codes via the ECS. A parent must have generated an eligibility code so it can then be validated to enable a child to access the offer.  

Local authorities and childcare providers can validate eligibility codes for childcare places throughout the term preceding the one in which the childcare place is used, or during that term in which the child takes up a place. This means that the number and percentage of eligibility codes for a particular term being validated is likely to increase over time.  

For the existing entitlements additional hours offer for three- and four-year-olds, which also relies on the eligibility checking service, typically validation of codes increases steadily through the term preceding that in which the child will receive the funded hours. For example, during the rollout of 30 hours for eligible 3- and 4-year olds in 2017, 71% of codes issued to three-year-olds at 31st August 2017 had been validated by 5th September 2017; by 19th December 2017 94% of codes issued for that term had been validated.  

More information on the reasons children did not receive hours under the 30 hours offer for three- and four-year-olds is gathered via the Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents. See table 3.10 in the additional tables.

Data quality

Data was collected from HMRC’s Childcare Service and aggregated by DfE from individual parent applications. The data was subject to a number of quality checks, including: 

  • Identification of the first issuance of each unique code to remove duplicates, such as when the same code has been used to reconfirm a place. 
  • Dual-running postcode to ward, LA and region data matching

Temporary codes

In January 2024 an issue was identified where parents/carers were claiming Tax-free Childcare for a child who would be two years old on or before 1st April 2024 and had reconfirmed their TFC eligibility before 2nd January 2024. Some of these individuals were unable to access an eligibility code until after the middle of February when their next reconfirmation window opened. As a result, around 57,000 ‘manual codes’ were automatically issued to any parent/carer via post. For these codes there are several possible outcomes:

  1. The parents replaced their manual code with a standard code. 
    1. If the replacement code is validated (whether or not the manual code was also validated) the manual code is removed from the issued and (if relevant) validated totals to avoid double counting. At 17 April, there were approximately 24,000 (~42%) codes in this category, within which the majority of manual codes (around 17,000) had not previously been validated. 
    2. If the replacement code is not validated, but the temporary code was validated with a provider, then the replacement code is removed from both the issued and the validated totals to avoid double counting. The manual code is retained in both totals. At 17 April, there were approximately 20,000 (~35%) codes in this category.
    3. If neither code was validated, the manual code is removed from both the issued and validated totals to avoid double counting. At 17 April, there were approximately 7,000 (~12%) codes in this category.


  2. The parent did not replace their manual code with a standard code. 
    1. These manual codes are retained in our issued and validated totals, with a majority of them having been validated with a provider. At 17 April, there were approximately 5,000 (~8%) codes in this category. 
    2. Where these manual codes were not validated, this may reflect a parent never intending to access the entitlement, as the manual code was issued automatically. Alternatively, they may have not found a place, or changed their plans, as with all other typical codes. At 17 April, there were approximately 2,000 (~3%) codes in this category.

Data protection

The data has been handled in accordance with DfE’s data protection policy, and any personal details such as National Insurance number and names have been removed during the aggregation to protect individual identities.   


The figures presented here are drawn from the ECS which is an administrative data system and are provided to aid transparency. The numbers of codes issued does not necessarily become the number of children taking an entitlement funded place. It is possible that duplicate codes exist in the data, where a parent applies more than once for a code or where manual codes have been issued, and possible that parents obtain eligibility codes that they do not use. Caution is therefore advised when interpreting these figures. 

Each code has been assigned to an upper tier Local Authority (LA) area or ward on the basis of the postcode submitted to the Childcare Service and logged in the ECS. The latest ONS directory identifies postcodes in each LA as at February 2024. In a small number of cases codes could not be match to a February 2024 LA, for example for newly built homes. It may also be the result of a typo in the postcode when it was submitted by the applicant. 

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