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:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Have asylum seeker status and be receiving support form their LA under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • 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
  • The child is a looked after child or in foster care
  • If the child has a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
  • If the child is eligible for Disability Living Allowance
  • If the child has left care in England and Wales through special guardianship, child arrangements order or through an adoption order.

When can I claim?

If you're eligible, you can start claiming free early education after your child turns two. Proof of eligibility only lasts for two months from the date you submit your application, so the date you can apply will depend on when your child's birthday is.

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

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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