Free education and childcare for 2 year olds

Children aged 2 are eligible if they are old enough, and if they meet any one of the below requirements.

Either the family is eligible for: 

  • 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 (this is your take-home pay and does not include state benefits)
  • Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit along with an annual income under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on, which is the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit

Or the child:

If you are a non- UK citizen who cannot claim benefits

If your immigration status says you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, you may still get free childcare for your 2 year old. You must live in England, and your household income must be no more than:

  • £26,500 for families outside of London with one child
  • £34,500 for families within London with one child
  • £30,600 for families outside of London with two or more children
  • £38,600 for families within London with two or more children

You cannot have more than £16,000 in savings or investments.

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 are 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