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:

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A maximum of 20 hours per week of before and after-school care during term time.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

Yes, neither person can earn more than £100,000 individually per annum. The £100,000 is individual earnings not the combined income.

Yes, you may be able to but please ask for more information when emailing AFFS when applying.

No, they do not need to be married.

Service personnel with an assignment order with report dates between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021 may apply for the scheme if eligible.

Service personnel with an assignment order with report dates between 1 September 2021 and 31 May 2022 may apply for the scheme if eligible.

This pilot will not affect your existing entitlement.

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.

No, this is for term time only.

Yes, the DIN provides further detail.

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 they are on paid maternity leave, they will be eligible. If they are on unpaid maternity leave, they will not be eligible.

Yes, but you would only get up to the maximum listed hourly rate. You would then need to fund anything over this amount yourself.

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.

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

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.

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.

You can contact AFFS at the following email address: Alternatively, you can contact AFF:

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02   Early years childcare

Service families may be entitled to claim free early years childcare across the UK and overseas but what is available does vary depending on where you are currently living. We advise families living in the UK to look at the government’s Childcare Choices webpage to explore what may be available in your area. 

To read more about the MOD childcare offer for the UK and overseas offer, see

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Three- and four-year-olds

  • All families can claim 15 hours’ free childcare for 38 weeks of the year. Some providers will allow you to stretch the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours a week.
  • If you and your partner (if applicable) are in paid employment, you may be eligible for an additional 15 hours of funded childcare, taking the hours up to 30 in total.


  • If you’re in receipt of certain benefits or your child has special educational needs or a disability, you may be able to claim 15 hours for two-year-olds for 38 weeks.

For more info, see the Childcare Choices webpage

1,140 hours a year (30 hours a week if taken in term time) is available for three and four year old children.

For more info, see

Depending on family circumstances there is up to 30 hours of free childcare available.

For more info, see

Contact the NI Children’s Education Support Officer for more information about the Early Years offer on

You could get between 15 and 30 hours’ of funded childcare in MOD schools and settings, depending on your circumstances. Where there are no MOD schools/settings accessible, a refund of fees paid can be applied for by means of Overseas Nursery Authority (ONA).

Full details can be found in the following DINs:

  • 30 hours free childcare 2021DIN01-085
  • ONA 2022DIN01-008
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03   Overseas Nursery Authority

The Overseas Nursery Authority (ONA), previously known as the Overseas Nursery Allowance has had some changes made to the application process.

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.

The process for applying and making claims are as follows:

  • Families research childcare providers in the area and find a suitable setting that is in accordance with the DIN criteria.
  • Completed applications should then be forwarded to their overseas Command/Commander/employing unit for their sign-off. Once approved, Service personnel will be able to use JPA to arrange a reimbursement (via i-Expense)

For more information refer to the ONA DIN reference 2022DIN01-008

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04   Childcare policy explained

Armed Forces Families and Safeguarding (AFFS), formerly DCYP, has written some useful fact pages 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 pages here:

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

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05   Universal Infant Free School Meals

Universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) enables schools in England to provide free school meals for pupils in Reception through to Year 2.

The offer is different for each of the devolved nations:

UIFSM Overseas:

The MOD’s UIFSM entitlement is available to serving Armed Forces parents or entitled MOD civilians with children in schools overseas who are in the equivalent of England’s Reception, Year 1 or Year 2.

The process is as follows:

  • Applications for obtaining UIFSM reimbursement must be submitted to your Commanding Officer, Commander or Head of Location for sign-off.
  • Once approved Service personnel can then submit their refund claim via JPA’s i-Expense (Overseas Child Expenses).

For more information refer to the UIFSM DIN – 2022DIN01-009, AFFS bites: Universal Infant Free School Meals or contact

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06   Tax Free Childcare

Tax Free Childcare (TFC) is a government scheme to help working parents with the cost of their childcare for children aged 0-11 years (16 if their child is registered disabled). Parents can open an online savings account and then use this to pay for childcare at a registered provider. The government will top up savings paid into the account, so for every £8 added by parents the government will add an additional £2.

Service families can also use their TFC to pay for their childcare in overseas locations with MOD approved childcare providers. For further information about this please read the TFC DIN available on the Defence Intranet.

AFFS bites: Tax Free Childcare

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07   MOD Sodexo childcare vouchers - please note this is now closed to new entrants

MOD Sodexo childcare vouchers are a salary sacrifice tax-saving scheme specifically for registered childcare. The scheme closed for new applicants from 31 August 2018.

The 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.  It is possible for both partners to claim their childcare vouchers in dual serving families.

Army families already registered on the scheme 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

If you’re encountering problems with using childcare vouchers, let us know at

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08   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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09   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.

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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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. 

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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