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

If you are the parent or carer of a two-year-old child and if you meet the criteria your child may be eligible for a free place.

How to qualify

You need to be in receipt of one of the following benefits:

  • 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 Working Tax Credit and your income is less than £7320 per year

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

  • Universal Credit - monthly earned income does not exceed £610 (based on equivalent of £7320 per year)

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 for an early learning and childcare place, 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 second birthday. There are three terms per year which begin in August, January and April. The eligibility cut-off dates are as follows:

  • child turns two between 1 March and 31 August - placement could start in August term

  • child turns two between 1 September and 31 December - placement could start in January term

  • child turns two between 1 January and end February - placement could start in April term

The entitlement is up to 1140 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, a child attending during school term time (38 weeks) can use a maximum of 30 hours per week or 23 hours 45 minutes per week over a 48-week period.

The place will not necessarily be with a council nursery. We have developed arrangements with partner providers 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.

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.

How do you apply?

If you think you may be eligible you should email the team at They will check that you are eligible and email or mail out an application pack.

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 ELC place.

Page last updated:
22 Dec 2020

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