Your 2 year old can get free early education and childcare if you live in England and get one of the following benefits:

  • income support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit, with annual earned income under £15,400 after tax (take-home pay – not including state benefits)
  • tax credits, with an annual income under £16,190 before tax (gross earnings)
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

or the child is:

  • looked after by a local council
  • has an education health and care plan (ECH)
  • getting Disability Living Allowance
  • has left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
  • is a child of Zambrano Carerswith annual earned income under £15,400 after tax
  • is a child of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private/family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rightswith annual earned income under £15,400 after tax
  • is a child of a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘the 1999 Act’)”

When to apply

You can apply 10 weeks before the end of the term in which your child turns 2.

Child's 2nd birthday Apply from Start from
1 April - 31 August 23 June 1 September
1 September - 31 December 23 October 1 January
1 January - 31 March 22 January 1 April

How to apply

You must apply online. You can only apply for children who live with you and for whom you have parental responsibility.

To apply you will need:

  • an email address
  • to register on our Citizen Portal, to begin the application


What happens next

If you’re eligible, you will receive a childcare code online.

Give the code to an approved childcare provider along with:

  • your child's birth certificate
  • your proof of residency (eg bank statement, household bill)


Taking the childcare place

Once agreed with a provider, the free childcare:

  • starts from the term after your child’s 2nd birthday,
  • stops when your child starts in reception class or reaches compulsory school age

You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.

Contact Childcare Planning Team