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. After this they may get free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds.

Find out if you're eligible for free childcare

Your 2-year-old can get free childcare if you get any of these benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • child tax credits, and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

2-year-olds can also get free childcare if they:

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

Your 2-year-old may get free childcare if you are getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as ‘part 6’)
  • been refused asylum in the UK (known as ‘section 4’)

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and you have any of the following:

  • leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ on family or private life grounds
  • support from your us because you have ‘a child in need’, for example they have a disability or a child protection plan
  • the right to live in the UK because you’re the main carer of a British citizen (known as a ‘Zambrano Carer’)

Funding is available from the term after your child turns 2. You can find more information 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.

Apply

Apply online

If you need help with your application 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:

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