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)
  • Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, 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
  • a child of Zambrano Carerswith annual earned income under £15,400 after tax
  • 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
  • a child of a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘the 1999 Act’)”
  • both excluded from claiming public funds due to their immigration status, or their lack of immigration status; and getting support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989
  • both receiving support from the local authority under section 17 of the Children Act 1989; and with no recourse to public funds

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