In addition to funding for three and four-year-olds some two-year-olds are also entitled to 15 hours of free early education a week until the term after their third birthday.
Any eligible children can access funding from the term after they turn two once the family has received approval of their application. Please see the cut-off dates below:
|1 January – 31 March
||Summer term (April onwards)|
|1 April – 31 August
||Autumn term (September onwards)|
|1 September – 31 December
||Spring term (January onwards)|
Two year-olds are eligible for 15 hours of free early years provision if:
1. Their parent(s) claim one of the following benefits:
- Income support
- Income-based Job Seekers' Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit - for places starting in the summer term 2018 (on or after 1 April 2018), or any subsequent term, if a parent is entitled to Universal Credit they must have an annual net earned income equivalent to and not exceeding £15,400, assessed on up to 3 of the parent's most recent Universal Credit assessment periods.
- Tax credit and they have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
- The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
- Working Tax Credit - 4 week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
2. The child has a
statement of special educational needs made under section 324 of the Education
3. The child has an Education, Health and Care Plan prepared under section 37 of the Children and Families Act 2014
4. The child is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance under section 71 of the Social Security and Contributions and Benefits Act 2014
5. They are looked after by a local authority (under section 22(1) of the Children Act 1989) or by a local authority in Wales within the meaning given by section 74(1) of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014
6. They are no longer looked after by the local authority as a result of an adoption order, a special guardianship order or a child arrangements order (within the meaning of section 8(1) of the Children Act 1989 or section 74(1) of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014) which related to either or both of the following:
- with whom the child is to live:
- when the child is to live with any person
Make an application
Once you have received approval for an application please take the reference to your chosen provider who will ask you complete a parent/carer agreement form.
If you need help applying online you can also apply:
- at your local Family Hub
- at an eligible provider
- through your health visitor
- through your social worker
Our guide to making an online application explains every step of the process.
If you are a parent and would like more information, please call the Family Information Service on 0800 055 6874 or visit your local Children’s Centre.
If you are a provider or practitioner please visit the Early Years website.
Using Free Early Education Entitlement
The 15-hour entitlement can be used:
- over a minimum of two days or a maximum of five days, at a minimum of 2.5 hours a day and a maximum of 10 hours a day
- over 38 weeks, or pro-rata over a maximum of 50 weeks per year. Some providers, such as independent schools, may offer less than 38 weeks. However, they must offer a minimum of 33 weeks and 11 in any one term
- anytime between 7am – 7pm, depending on the sessions offered by your chosen provider
- through just one childcare provider
- without being subject to conditional additional payments
How to claim Free Early Education Entitlement
Please take your approved application reference to your chosen provider. They will be able to claim funding from Essex County Council which is then paid directly to your provider on a termly basis.
Each term your provider will ask you to sign a parent/carer agreement form. The form is your commitment to that provider for your child's place for that term. The provider will then submit the form to Essex County Council to claim the Free Early Education Entitlement for the next term.
Early Years census and personal data
Each year, early years settings in the private, voluntary and independent sector who have children accessing Free Early Education Entitlement for three and four-year-olds are required to complete an Early Years Census. This information is passed by each setting to Essex County Council, which provides it to the Department for Education.
Under the Data Protection Act 1998 early years settings must inform parents about the data they hold and how it is used. Data covers personal information such as names, addresses, date of birth, etc. This is known as a privacy notice. This should also include information about whether the data is passed to any third parties, for example the local authority.
If parents have any questions about how data is being used or stored within an early years setting, they should contact the childcare provider directly.
Our Early Years privacy notice explains how Essex County Council holds and uses this data. Information on how the Department for Education holds and uses this data can be found on its website.