Childcare & Early years


Some of the topics that we are currently investigating, pushing for and monitoring include:
– early years support funding from DfE.
– early years 30 hours availability/accessibility worldwide
– devolved issues including differences in the offer
– availability of local childcare settings
– the new MOD childcare policy

By highlighting these issues we can work to change things for the better.


01   MOD Wraparound Childcare pilot scheme

The MOD has released details of the pilot scheme in RAF High Wycombe, RAF Halton, Catterick, Plymouth,  Woolwich and six defence sites in Lincolnshire. For more information about the scheme, details of who is eligible and how to apply, see these FAQs:

What is meant by ‘wraparound childcare’? 
A maximum of 20 hours per week of before and after-school care during term time.

Who is eligible?
Families with at least one partner (or single parent) serving as an Armed Forces Regular, including FTRS Full Commitment. Service personnel must have completed Phase 1 training.

Does the Service Person (SP) have to be assigned to one of the pilot sites?
Yes. For Catterick, they need to be assigned to one of the units in Catterick Garrison at the start of the spring term (1 January 2021) or have a reporting for duty date between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021.

For Woolwich, they need to be assigned to one of the units in the Woolwich cluster at the start of the autumn term (1 September 2021) or have a reporting for duty date between 1 September 2021 and 31 May 2022.

Are units near the pilot sites included?
The DIN has the full list of units included in the pilot, which the Service person can obtain from their chain of command.

Ripon, Dishforth, Topcliffe and Albermarle are not included in the Catterick pilot.

Which children are eligible to participate?
All dependent children aged between four and 11 (Reception to Year 6) currently attending school; this includes those being home schooled. This scheme includes step-children and adopted children but does not extend to foster children. They must live at home and not be boarding.

The children must be recorded on the Service person’s Joint Personnel Administration (JPA).

Does the partner of the Service person need to be in work?
Yes. The partner of the Service person needs to be in paid employment, starting or re-starting work in the next 31 days. They must have a weekly income equivalent to 16 hours a week at the National Minimum/Living Wage.

Is there a cap on what the Service person or partner can earn?
Yes, neither person can earn more than £100,000 individually per annum. The £100,000 is individual earnings not the combined income.

Can you claim if you live unaccompanied?
Yes, you may be able to but please ask for more information when emailing AFFS when applying.

Does the Service person have to be married to claim?
No, they do not need to be married.

My serving partner has an assignment order for Catterick but we are not due to arrive until sometime in the autumn – can we still apply?
Service personnel with an assignment order with report dates between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021 may apply for the scheme if eligible.

My serving partner has an assignment order for Woolwich but we are not due to arrive until sometime in the spring – can we still apply?
Service personnel with an assignment order with report dates between 1 September 2021 and 31 May 2022 may apply for the scheme if eligible.

The Service person is already a member of the Armed Forces Childcare Voucher Scheme (AFCVS) or the Tax Free Childcare (TFC) account. Will being part of this pilot affect this?
This pilot will not affect your existing entitlement.

What providers can we use?
To be eligible for the Wraparound Childcare pilot, the provider must be OFSTED (or equivalent) registered. Providers would most likely be schools (breakfast and after-school clubs) and registered childminders.

Can we apply for funding during school holidays? (e.g. school holiday clubs as Service person and spouse working)?
No, this is for term time only.

Is there a limit on what will be paid?
Yes, the DIN provides further detail.

Can I split my Wraparound Childcare between before and after-school childcare?
Yes, it can be split between before and after-school care, and also between different providers. All providers must be registered with OFSTED or equivalent.

If the Service person or their partner are on maternity leave, are they still eligible?
If they are on paid maternity leave, they will be eligible. If they are on unpaid maternity leave, they will not be eligible.

If the provider costs more than the hourly rate listed on the DIN, will we still be able to use them and claim the Wraparound Childcare?
Yes, but you would only get up to the maximum listed hourly rate. You would then need to fund anything over this amount yourself.

Are dual serving parents eligible to take part in the pilot?
Yes, dual serving parents are eligible to apply as long as the parent making the application is assigned to the pilot area and they have children aged four to 11 attending school.

Where can I find out more?
The Service person can ask their chain of command or access the DINs (2021DIN01-111 and 2021DIN01-135) through MODNET.

Why has the WAC not been rolled out to all Army families?

The MOD undertook pilots of the WAC in 2020 but, due to COVID-19 restrictions, they were unable to provide the evidence needed for the Government to determine whether a full UK rollout would be feasible.

The MOD has therefore extended the pilots in Catterick and Plymouth, and expanded the pilots to Woolwich and RAF sites within Lincolnshire, to give them an opportunity to gather more evidence about the scheme.

How did the MOD choose the new expanded pilot sites? 

In order to gather the evidence needed to consider a rollout across the UK, the MOD needed to include new sites that would give a wide range of data.

The previous RAF pilots at RAF High Wycombe and RAF Halton saw a higher than expected number of families taking up the WAC offer and the MOD is keen to understand if this is because these were non-operational HQ sites. Therefore, as the sites in Lincolnshire include operational airbases, it allows them to test to demand for operational personnel. In addition, the location of Lincolnshire also allows the MOD to test the demand and supply for childcare and the WAC in a more rural environment.

Woolwich was selected as a pilot site to help determine the demand and supply in a more densely populated location and will hopefully provide the MOD with evidence on whether the take up of the WAC offer is impacted by the cost of the local childcare provision.

I have specific questions, who can I ask?
You can also contact AFFS at the following email address: Alternatively, you can contact AFF:

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02   Overseas Nursery Allowance renamed

Overseas Nursery Allowance will now be known as Overseas Nursery Authority (ONA).

Parents of three- and four-year olds in overseas locations where MOD schools and settings are not available can apply for reimbursement of nursery fees by means of ONA.

Formerly referred to as ISODET Nursery Allowance, it is not actually an allowance, but rather a reimbursement of fees paid, so has been renamed to avoid confusion.

The application process for ONA will not change. More information can be found here

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03   Childcare policy explained

The Directorate Children & Young People has produced a set of handy factsheets on childcare and different education policies.

They provide a useful guide on topics such as free early years childcare entitlement for three- and four-year-olds, including in the UK, the devolved regions and overseas, and Service Pupil Premium with contact details and web links provided for further information.

View the fact sheets here:

Free Early Years Childcare Entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds (including 30 hours’ free childcare)
Overseas Nursery Authority (ONA)
Tax-Free Childcare (TFC)
Term Time Absence
Service Pupil Premium
Universal Infant Free School Meals

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04   Home-Start

Home-Start offers practical and emotional support to parents with children aged five or under, including Armed Forces families, through a team of volunteers. Help is confidential and free.

Home-Start has a long history of supporting Forces families in the UK, Germany and Cyprus. Local Home-Starts support parents through home visiting, community group work, school readiness projects and events.

There are more than 200 independent local Home-Starts in the UK, providing support to parents and more than 56,000 young children.

To find out if there is a Home-Start in your area, phone 0116 464 5450 or visit their website.

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05   Extended FREE childcare entitlement in overseas locations

Are you posted overseas? Do you have children who are three or four years old?

The MOD has published a document giving information about free childcare entitlement in overseas locations. AFF has compiled a summary of the regulations.

The MOD aims to provide services similar to those in England where possible, whilst recognising the support that is given elsewhere in the UK to all eligible Service personnel.

Currently, the MOD provides 15 hours of childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year for three and four year olds in places at MOD-provided settings, or through access to the MOD Overseas Nursery Authority.

Additional FREE hours

From 1 September 2017, eligible children can access an additional 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.

The additional 15 hours will be available to families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family) a minimum of 16 hours each per week.

Parents each earning £100,000.00 or more do not qualify. The hours are measured for eligibility purposes on an average three-month period or an expectation.

The additional entitlement will be mirrored, where possible, in MOD locations overseas, using the same eligibility criteria defined under the 2016 Childcare Act above.

Please bear in mind that the additional entitlement has been piloted in various places across England, but there is no entitlement for any backdated payments for these periods.

For stability, there is a grace period if you find you become ineligible, which, where practical, is similar to what is found in England.

Where can you access it?

Where the MOD-provided settings have sufficient capacity, the additional entitlement will be provided through those settings, free of charge. Free childcare cannot be claimed when using childminders or nannies. If there are no places, then the additional entitlement will be provided through the MOD Overseas Nursery Authority.

Does it matter where I work?

For dependants working overseas who pay Income Tax to HMRC or devolved equivalents, confirmation of eligibility is required from your employer (DBS).

For dependants working overseas as Locally Engaged Civilians (LECs) not paying Income Tax to HMRC or devolved equivalents, it will be the responsibility of the local Command through the LEC employer or agency, to confirm eligibility.

Dependants working overseas on the local economy will be required to provide proof from their employer in order to confirm their eligibility.

How to apply

If you qualify for the free 15 hours in an MOD-provided setting or, qualify for MOD Overseas Nursery Authority and fulfil the eligibility criteria for the additional 15 hours’ entitlement, please complete Annex A found in the regulations.

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06   Childcare options

A choice of childcare options should be available for all Army families, but because of Service life, some are easier to access than others.

Day nurseries: make sure your name is down on the waiting list as soon as possible, even before you have a confirmed posting order.

Nannies and Au Pairs: Nannies may be qualified, but au pairs are usually not. There are restrictions for au pairs on their working hours, and there is a specified age below which you should not leave your little one with them in sole care on a regular basis.

There have been some changes regarding employment of au pairs from the EU. For more information, please click here.

Both can live in, although you can also have a daily nanny; you will need to inform housing to let them know you have someone living in your quarter.

In certain cases, you may be entitled to have an extra bedroom.

Childminders: Live locally, should be registered and will be inspected by OFSTED.

They may offer early years education, and they may have other staff working for them.

The Local Authority (LA) will have a specific page for childcare and vacancies. You can also follow these links, depending on where you live:

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07   MOD Sodexo childcare vouchers

MOD Sodexo childcare vouchers are a salary sacrifice tax-saving scheme specifically for registered childcare. *Please note this is now closed to new entrants*

Paper or e-vouchers can be used to pay for childcare either for children who have not yet started school, or for before and after school care and holiday clubs, saving you over £900.

If your soldier wishes to claim Sodexo Armed Forces childcare vouchers, you will need to check that your childcare provider is registered. Dual serving? It is possible for you both to claim for childcare vouchers.

Army families are able to use the vouchers for any Ofsted regulated childcare or equivalent, including regulated MOD Schools childcare overseas. The vouchers can also be used for the boarding element of school fees providing this is clearly shown on bills and invoices.

For more information, visit or call MOD Freephone: 0800 066 5075

AFF recognises that the childcare voucher scheme is very important to a large number of families. If you’re encountering problems with securing childcare vouchers, let us know at

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08   Early years

Do you have a three or four year old and wish to access free early years education? The number of hours, its name and the choice may vary but, wherever you are, free early years education should be available.

Where can I access online information and support?

Family information services (FIS) are available via local authority (LA) websites.

For particular details about each area of the UK, please see the links below. Northern Ireland deserves a special mention as it has an app that is an online directory of registered childcare provision and family support services; type FSNI into the search box of your app store.

Overseas settings information is available on our website and via the MOD Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS).

In which type of childcare setting can I access the free hours?

All registered childcare including private day nurseries, children’s centres, pre-schools, FS1 settings and childminders can offer these hours, but the options of when you can take the hours may vary.

When does the free entitlement start?

Usually the term after your child’s third birthday.

What about free early years funding for my two year old?

Army families do not generally fit the criteria and therefore will not receive this funding. A handful of areas offer this to Army families, and also a few areas offer this on a referral basis, but both of these cases are the result of LA decisions made locally.

Find out more on your LA’s website.

What are FS1 and FS2?

Foundation Stage 1 or FS1 is the term used in MOD Schools settings for children who are three or four and in the year before they start school. FS2 is the equivalent of reception or primary 1, depending on birthdays and area.

What is headcount week?

This happens at the beginning of term for the setting to access funding. If you move after this, it is important to let the provider that you left know as well as where you are moving to, for funding purposes.

Will I receive free transport?

No, there is currently no entitlement to funding for early years transport either in the UK or overseas.

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09   Childminding – a childcare and business option worth exploring

If you’re either looking for local childcare in a more home-type setting for your children, or are exploring the option of looking after other children in your quarter, then childminding may fit the bill.

Looking for a childminder?

Registered childminders look after children under eight years old for more than two hours at a time, usually at home. They are inspected in the UK by Ofsted in England, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate in Wales (CSSIW), the local Health and Social Services Trust in Northern Ireland, the Care Inspectorate in Scotland and the British Forces Early Years’ Service (BFEYS) or SSAFA overseas.

It’s possible to find a childminder that can cover different hours to suit shift work for example, or in some cases overnight care, if you’re juggling things on your own for a bit without family nearby.

Thinking of becoming a childminder?

“This is an excellent business to take round with you when you move and it’s the most rewarding job I have done.”

Childminders complete training which includes a pre-registration course and paediatric first-aid. The new Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce is now the industry standard qualification.

Childminders need to show they conform to the standards set in each area of the UK and registration certificates must be displayed. It can take 2-3 months to complete registration.

Childminders obtain public liability insurance cover as a requirement of registration and also complete Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) forms. If you have other people living at home, it’s likely they will also need to complete this form.

Contact your LA as they will have lots of advice on registering and training. There are also websites that can help.

Childminding in SFA

Write to the Garrison Commander and DIO for permission to run a business if you live in SFA and include any changes to the quarter. If you live in SSFA you should contact the Substitute Accommodation helpdesk.

The MOD will not fund any changes to your home for your business and you will need to put right any changes you make before you move.

For more information, visit the Amey website.

Moving house

Contact your new LA and advise your registration provider, your new Garrison Commander and DIO.


Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) helpline for childcare providers will give you advice for the childcare element of working tax credit and there is also advice on running your business on their website. Telephone: 0345 300 3900 or visit to watch a webinar.

Posted abroad?

The British Forces Early Years’ Service (BFEYS) regulates childminding in SFA in North Western Europe meeting English standards. Telephone 0049 2161 472 4644 or email
SSAFA Forces Help give advice about everywhere else. Call 0207 463 9229

UK wide advice

The following links may help you:

  • In England, childminders register and are inspected by Ofsted. Visit or telephone: 0300 123 1231.
  • Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) offers advice and a useful training i-brochure with training options and also a PACEY Local service. Call 0300 003 0005. PACEY’s Cardiff office can be contacted on 0845 880 1299 or at
  • Health and Social Services Trust inspect childminders annually in NI. Visit; there are local telephone numbers for each area.
  • Northern Ireland Child Minding Association (NICMA): 0871 200 2063 or
  • Care Inspectorate in Scotland. Telephone 0845 600 9527 or visit
  • The Scottish Child-minding Association website:
  • Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales: 0300 062 8800 or

The HIVE is also a hive of information regarding childminding!

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10   Charitable and other support

Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a charity dedicated to supporting children & young people who have lost a parent whilst serving in the British Armed Forces.

Give Us Time takes commercially let accommodation donated by owners of holiday groups, hotels, holiday homes and timeshares, and matches them with military families in need of rest, rehabilitation and reconnection with their families.

Forces Children’s Trust supports children in need who’s father or mother has died or sustained life threatening injuries while serving as a member of the British Armed Forces or Civilian Forces.

Armed Forces Education Trust is a charity working for children and young adults whose education has been compromised or put at risk as a result of parents’ past or current Service in our Armed Forces.

Reading Force are passionate about using books to bring Forces children and families closer together. 

The Annington Trust makes grants to a wide variety of projects for the benefit of families living in Services’ communities. These have included support for contact houses, crèches, pre-schools, youth clubs, community centres, libraries and music groups.

ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is the national charity of the British Army, providing a lifetime of support to soldiers, veterans and their immediate families when they are in need.

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