Help with childcare costs

Free childcare for 2-year-olds

Some 2-year-olds can get up to 15 hours of free early education until the term after their third birthday. This is when they become eligible for free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds.

Find out if your child is eligible

Your child might be eligible for free funding if you’re receiving any of these benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit (not Working Tax Credit), with an annual income below £16,190
  • Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance, income related
  • support under part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act, 1999
  • Working Tax Credit run-on, paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit, if you and your partner have a combined income from work of £15,400 or less a year, after tax

Your child might also be eligible if:

Funding is available from the term after your child turns 2. You can find more information on childcare eligibility on the Childcare Choices website.

Born on or in between Eligible for funding from
1 January to 31 March Summer term (April onwards)
1 April to 31 August Autumn term (September onwards)
1 September to 31 December Spring term (January onwards)

If you’re eligible, the free early education and childcare must be with an approved childcare provider.


Before you apply, read our guide to applying online (PDF, 922kB).

Apply online

If you need help with your application or want to apply under the Extended Eligibility Criteria (for non-EEA citizens who cannot claim benefits), you can:

Using your 15 hours free childcare

You can use your free 15 hours:

  • over a minimum of 2 days or a maximum of 5 days a week
  • for a maximum of 10 hours a day
  • over 38 weeks or pro-rata over a maximum of 52 weeks per year
  • anytime between 6am to 8pm, depending on the sessions offered by your chosen provider
  • with one childcare provider only
  • without paying for additional services.

Claim your 15 hours free childcare

If your application is approved, you will receive a reference number. Give this to your chosen childcare provider.

Guidance for parents

Read our guide on Free Early Education Entitlement for 2, 3 and 4 year olds (PDF, 175.51kB) for more information and advice.

This guide is also available in:

Early years census

Every year, early years providers who receive government funding for 2, 3 or 4-year-olds, must complete an early years census. This includes all private, voluntary or independent nurseries and early years education providers.

We collate all the data and submit them to the Department for Education.

Privacy notices for education services

Find out what we do with the information you give us when you use our education services.

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