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Free early learning for two-year-olds

Is your family living on a low income or claiming income based benefits? Does your two year old have additional needs, or have they left care? You may be entitled to claim free childcare up to a maximum of 15 hours during term time, or 11 hours per week throughout the year.

Every eligible child will be given the opportunity to experience high quality early years’ education with the support of a trained, high quality registered childminder, nursery, children’s centre or pre-school.  The aim of the programme is to enable your child to receive high quality early education that will help them to be school ready. 

Who is eligible?

Two-year-olds whose family receives one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • tax credits and have an annual income under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Universal Credit – if a parent is entitled to Universal Credit they must have an annual net earned income equivalent to and not exceeding £15,400, assessed on up to three of the parent’s most recent Universal Credit assessment periods.

Two-year-olds who meet any one of the following criteria will also be eligible:

  • If they meet the eligibility criteria also used for free school meals
  • If their families receive Working Tax credits and have annual gross earnings of no more than £16,190 per year
  • If they have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
  • If they attract Disability Living Allowance
  • If they are looked after by their local authority including foster carers
  • If they have left care through special guardianship or through an adoption or residence order

If you’re a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits

Your 2-year-old may get free childcare if you are getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as ‘part 6’)
  • been refused asylum in the UK (known as ‘section 4’)

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and you have either:

  • leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ on family or private life grounds
  • the right to live in the UK because you’re the main carer of a British citizen (known as a ‘Zambrano Carer’)

This entitlement is available in the term after an eligible child’s 2nd birthday.  You should be able to keep your child at your preferred provider until they can access a school place, normally in the September after their 3rd birthday.  Your entitlement will continue to be free regardless of whether your family’s financial circumstances change.

This entitlement is available in the term after an eligible child’s 2nd birthday. You should be able to keep your child at your preferred provider until they can access a school place (normally in the September following their 3rd birthday). Your entitlement will continue to be free regardless of whether your family’s financial circumstances change.

When will my child/children be eligible for their free place?

Child’s second birthday falls between:


They will be entitled to their free place from:

Parents can contact their borough to apply for a places from:

1 April and 31 August

The start of the Autumn term in September

From April


1 September and 31 December

The start of the Spring term in January

From September 

1 January and 31 March

The start of the Summer term in April

From January


How can I apply?

Register online and apply for Free Early Learning for your 2 year olds 

When your child is 20 months you can now complete your two year old funding request using our online application form. This is the quickest and clearest way to ensure your information is received by the Bi-Borough Childcare and Early Education Service.

This information will be used to check if your child is eligible for a free place.  If you are eligible, you will be notified and allocated a place. If you are not already registered, this information will also be used to register your family with your local children’s centre. This ensures that you are kept informed of local services that can benefit your family.

If you have any difficulty completing the form, you can get help from your local children's centre. Alternatively, if you are not about to get to a children's centre, you can get assistance from the Family Information Service by calling 020 7361 3302.

Last Updated 17/04/2020

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