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Free early learning for 2 year olds

Is your family living on a low income or claiming income based benefits? Does your two year old have additional needs or has 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?

Families must be in receipt of one or more of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • Tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • 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)

A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:

  • They’re looked after by a local council
  • They have a Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • They get Disability Living Allowance
  • They’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

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.

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 2018

The start of the Autumn term in September 2018

From April 2018


1 September and 31 December 2018

The start of the Spring term in January 2019

From September 2018

1 January and 31 March 2019

The start of the Summer term in April 2019

From January 2019


How can I apply?

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

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 Early Years’ 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. This information will also be used to register your family with your local children’s centre, if you are not already registered, to ensure you are kept informed of local services that can benefit your family.

If you have any difficulty completing the form, or you are unable to visit a Children's Centre, you can also contact the Family Information Service on 020 7361 3302, who will be able to provide you with assistance.

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