Page last updated 12 September 2014
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?

August 2014: There has been a new update to the eligibility information below.

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 now be eligible for a Free Childcare place for their 2 year old child.

Friday 12 September: we are aware of an intermittent issue with the online eligibility checker which is being investigated. If you experience problems using it, please wait 10 minutes before trying again.

To check eligibility please use our Online Eligibility Checker (OEC). If you require support with using the OEC, 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 have an income below £16,190 and be claiming the one of the following state 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
  • 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. If the reference number expires, 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
  • have a current statement of Special Educational Needs (SEND) or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHP)
  • are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance.
  • are subject to a Special Guardianship Order, child arrangement or Adoption order.
  • have a Common Assessment for Families (CAF)
  • are working with the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP)
  • are receiving targeted support identified through a Complex Case Discussion.

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.

When and where can I start my place?

If the OEC confirms eligibility, you will receive the offer of a funded place for your 2 year old. 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.

Free Childcare and Education for 2 year olds entitles eligible children to 570 hours, split into 3 Funding Blocks a year of Early Learning. The maximum amount of hours that can be taken in a week is 15 hours.

To find out when your child would be able to start a 2 Year Funded Place if eligible, use the start calculator document below:

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