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:
- they are looked after by a local authority
- they have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
- they get Disability Allowance
- they have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
- you are a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits
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).
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:
- Arabic (PDF, 1.25mB)
- Hindi (PDF, 1.11mB)
- Romanian (PDF, 1.55mB)
- Polish (PDF, 1.55mB)
- Urdu (PDF, 1.63mB)
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.Print this page