Free Early Education and Childcare for 2 year olds

Upcoming changes to childcare support →

The financial support that is available to parents to help with the cost of childcare is increasing from September 2024. The existing childcare support will be expanded in phases and by September 2025, working parents with children aged 9 months old to when a child goes to school will be eligible for 30 hours childcare support. The details on how working parents will apply for this funded childcare is currently unknown. The latest information is available on Childcare Choices (external link).

Did you know that some children who are aged two years of age can access 15 hours of free early education and childcare?

Currently the criteria for 2-year-olds in England to get free early education and childcare is the following:

  • All two year olds who are looked after by the Local Authority (LA)
  • The parent must meet at least one of the National Criteria:
    • Income Support and/or
    • Income based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) and/or
    • Child Tax Credit Working Tax Credit (or Both), and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenue and Customs) that does not exceed £16,190 and/or
    • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
    • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and/or
    • The Guarantee' element of State Pension Credit and/or
    • Universal Credit and the household 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.
  • Or the child must:
    • Be a looked after child/in foster care
    • Have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
    • Be 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.

If you’re a non-UK citizen who cannot claim benefits

If your immigration status says you have 'no recourse to public funds', you may still get free childcare for your 2-year-old. You must live in England and your household income must be no more than:

  • £26,500 for families outside of London with one child
  • £34,500 for families within London with one child
  • £30,600 for families outside of London with two or more children
  • £38,600 for families within London with two or more children

You cannot have more than £16,000 in savings or investments. Applications are to be made by completing the application form and returning to where a member of the team will review. You will receive notification whether you have or have not been successful. 

If your child’s eligible, you can start claiming free early education after your child turns 2. The date you can apply will depend on when their birthday is as proof of eligibility only lasts for two months from the day of application.

A child turns 2 in the periodWill become eligible for a 2 year funded place
1st April to 31st August 1st Sept (Autumn term)
1st Sept to 31st Dec 1st January (Spring term)
1st Jan to 31st March 1st April (Summer term)

Am I eligible?

To find out if your eligible please complete an application form which you can do online at the link below. 

Alternatively you can gain support at your local Start Well Family Centre or email Family Information Service Contact Centre.

If your application is successful, please look out for confirmation by email from Victoria Forms and take this email to your chosen childcare provider. Most decisions are immediate however, if more information is needed, a member of the Early Learning and Childcare Team will contact you.

How do I find a place?

Our Our Town 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.

© Wigan Council