Free early education and childcare for 2 year olds

Some children who are two years of age can access 15 hours of free early education and childcare, depending on their individual family circumstances.

Who is eligible?

For a two year old in England to qualify for free early education and childcare, they either have to be looked after by the Local Authority (LA) or the parent must meet at least one of the National Criteria below and be in receipt of:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • The Guarantee' element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenue and Customs) not over £16,190
  • Working Tax Credits and have annual gross earnings of no more than £16,190 per year and/or Universal Credit, and the family net earned annual income is equivalent to and not more than £15,400, assessed on up to three of the parent's most recent Universal Credit assessment periods
  • Support from their LA under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 as they have asylum seeker status.

Or the child must:

  • Be a looked after child or in foster care
  • Have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
  • Be eligible for Disability Living Allowance
  • Have left care in England and Wales through special guardianship, child arrangements order or through an adoption order
  • Be from a family with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
  • Be from a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘the 1999 Act’)
  • Be a child of Zambrano carers. The carers must:
    • Be a British citizen or an exempt person
    • Be a direct relative or legal guardian of the child
    • Have primary responsibility for the care of the child (primary care can be shared between two relatives)
    • Have no other members of their family in the UK or EEA who could look after the child.

When can I claim?

If you're eligible, you can start claiming free early education after your child turns two.

Eligibility
A child turns 2 in the periodApplication periodChild will be eligible for a funded place from the start of: 
1st April to 31st August 1st July - 31st August 1st Sept (Autumn term)
1st Sept to 31st Dec 1st Nov - 31st Dec  1st January (Spring term)
1st Jan to 31st March 1st Feb - 31st March  1st April (Summer term)

Am I eligible?

To find out if you're eligible please fill in the online form below or visit your local children's centre

If you are a Zambrano carer, you will need to complete our Zambrano carer form.

How do I find a place?

Our Family Directory has a list of all the childcare services that offer this free entitlement.

You can search this list by area to find your nearest childcare providers. Alternatively, you can contact the Family Information Service who will be able to provide a list of places best suited to you.

Once you know which childcare provider you are interested in you should contact them directly to visit and enrol your child.

Can I get further help with my childcare costs?

The government has developed a number of new ways to help parents with their childcare costs for children of all ages.

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