Page last updated 29 July 2015
Two children  

Free childcare and education for 2 year olds

If you are a childcare provider or professional wishing to make a free childcare and education for 2 year olds referral and for information about discretionary places, please visit the delivering free childcare and education for 2 year olds page.

Is my child eligible for free childcare and education?

Families in receipt of Working Families Tax Credit with an income of no more than £16,190 (as assessed by HM Revenue and Customs) could be eligible for a free childcare place for their 2 year old child. 

To check eligibility please use our online eligibility checker:

Check eligibility

If you require support using the eligibility checker, please visit your local Children's Centre or Library Plus Service who will be able to help you.

To be eligible a parent/carer must be claiming one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Job Seekers’ Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part V1 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) 
  • Guaranteed Element of the State Pension Credit; or 
  • Child Tax Credit, provided you have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190, as assessed by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs
  • Working Families Tax Credit, with an income of no more than £16,190, as assessed by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

If eligible, the OEC will give you a reference number which remains active for six weeks. This means it must be checked by a childcare provider within six weeks of issue and a place reserved even if your child cannot start straight away.  If the reference is not checked within six weeks, it will expire and you will need to use the OEC again to obtain another valid reference number.

Other eligibility criteria

In additional to the financial criteria, children are also eligible if they:

  • are a Looked After Child with the Local Authority  
  • are under a Child Protection Plan (Section 47)
  • are under a Child in Need (Section 17)
  • have Higher Special Needs and Disabilities (SEND), as evidenced by the Early Years descriptors and High Needs Block
  • are subject to a Special Guardianship Order, child arrangement or Adoption order.
  • have an Early Help Assessment (EHA)

If you think your child is eligible under one of the above criteria, you will need to speak with the professional working with your family and ask them to make a referral. The  Discretionary Places referral form can be found on the delivering free childcare and education for 2 year olds page.

Unfortunately parents/carers cannot make a self referral.

Where can I take up my place?

You can use any good or outstanding OFSTED registered childcare provider or childminder.

To find a list of childcare providers or childminders please see our Children and Families Service Finder.

When can I start my place? 

To find out when your child would be able to start a 2 year funded place if eligible, use the start calculator document below:

How many free hours do I get?

Every eligible child is entitled to access a maximum of 570 hours of free childcare and education for 2 year olds across three funding blocks in a year following the child’s 2nd birthday, on the following basis:

  • A maximum of 15 hours per week over a minimum of 2 days per week
  • A maximum of 10 hours in a single day
  • A minimum of 2½ continuous hours in any one day
  • Take all or part of their free childcare and education for 2 year olds at a single setting or a maximum of two settings (including maintained sector schools).

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