Early learning and childcare places for eligible two-year-old children

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act requires local authorities to offer eligible families of two-year-old children up to 600 hours of free early learning and childcare

Is your child eligible?Nursery admissions logo

From August 2015, the criterion for free places changed to benefit more families.

If you are the parent or carer of a two-year-old child and if either of the child's parents/carers are not working your child may be eligible for a free place.

To qualify, parent(s) need to be in receipt of one of the benefits outlined below:

  • Income support

  • Income based job seekers allowance

  • Any income related element of the Employment and Support Allowance

  • Child Tax Credit, but not Working Tax Credit and your income is less than £16,010 per year

  • State Pension Credit
  • Maximum Child Tax Credit and maximum Working Tax Credit and your income is less than £6,240 per year

  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

  • Universal Credit

Or your child is or has been at any time since their second birthday:

  • Looked after (as defined in section 97(2) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995)

  • Under a kinship care order (as defined in section11(1) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995)

  • Lives with a Parent Appointed Guardian (as defined in section 72(1) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995)

Once a child becomes entitled to early learning and childcare, they will stay entitled even if their parent/carer becomes employed, or the situation with their parents/carers changes.

What is the entitlement?

Early learning and childcare is education and care for young children which is delivered in a caring and nurturing setting.

Eligible children will be entitled to a place in the school term following their 2nd birthday. There are three terms per year which begin in August, January and April. The eligibility cut off dates are as follows:

  • Child becomes two between 1 March and 31 August - placement could start in August term

  • Child becomes two between 1 September and 31 December - placement could start in January term

  • Child becomes two between 1 January and end February - placement could start in April term

The entitlement is up to 600 hours of free early learning and childcare in a full year. The amount offered is pro rata and will vary, depending on the child's eligible start date. Where circumstances allow, the hours will be offered in a way that gives parents/carers some choice and flexibility over what the pattern will be. For example, it may be worked out as a three hour and 10 minute session each weekday during school term time (39 weeks) or a 2.5 hour session each weekday over a 48-week period.

The place will not necessarily be with a local authority nursery. We have developed arrangements with approved independent and voluntary services and registered childminders, who can deliver the service on the council's behalf. These could be more suitable for parents who require greater flexibility with their allocated hours.

How does it work?

Once your application has been processed and your eligibility is confirmed, you will be provided with a list of approved childcare providers in your area. It is then up to you to secure a place with your preferred service and agree on a pattern of attendance. You may find our Choosing childcare information useful at this stage.

Please note that all places are subject to availability. 

Once you have secured a place for your child and agreed on the attendance hours, the childcare service will provide the council with details of the placement.

You can view the full process from the attachment in 'downloads'.

How do you apply?

If you think you may be eligible, you can download the application and guidance notes from 'downloads'. Alternatively you can request an application pack or get more information by using the "contact us" box.

Important information

Please note that securing a place for your two-year-old child does not have any bearing on your child's 3-5 funded place. You will need to submit a separate application form for a 3-5 nursery place. More information on the entitlement to a 3-5 funded place and the timescale for applications can be found in Nursery admissions, policy and application.

Please use the 'contact us' box if you have any questions. For more information, see 'related pages', 'downloads' or 'other useful websites'.

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