Skip to main content

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.


You may be eligible if you receive one or more of the following qualifying benefits:

  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Any income-related element of the Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity or Severe Disablement Allowance
  • State Pension Credit
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

If you receive tax credits or universal credit, then you can earn a certain amount of money and still be eligible.

If you are on Child Tax Credit:

  • but not Working Tax Credit, then your earnings can be £19,995 a year or less
  • and Working Tax Credit, then your earnings can be £9,552 a year or less

The income thresholds for Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit can change each year:

  • If you are on Universal Credit, then your household take-home pay can be £796 a month or less (based on the equivalent of £9,552 a year)

"Take-home pay" is the money your household receives from work after tax, National Insurance and any pension contributions that have been taken off. Your award letter will tell you how much your take-home pay is for the claim period. This should be £796 or less.

Children are also entitled if they are:

  • looked after and accommodated
  • under a kinship care order 
  • lives with a Parent Appointed Guardian 
  • care experienced or has a parent who is care experienced

Once your child qualifies for early learning and childcare, they'll stay qualified. Even if you get a job or the situation with a parent or carer changes.

Parents/carers of children applying from another local authority should be guided by the Cross-Boundary Protocol.

If you would like more information on Cross-Boundary funding please email

When can they start

Eligible two-year-olds will receive a childcare place from the school term after their second birthday:

  • between January and February - start in the April term

  • between March and August - start in the August term

  • between September and December - start in the January 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.

We are in a framework agreement with a number of partner providers (private, voluntary and independent nurseries and childminders). These could be more suitable for parents who require greater flexibility with their allocated hours.

How do you apply?

To allow us to confirm eligibility parents/carers should provide the following information and email it to

  • A completed application form for eligible two-year-olds. These can be viewed and downloaded below. The application form is interactive and can be completed on a computer. You may experience difficulties if you attempt to download and complete the form on a mobile device.
  • A copy of your current council tax statement and a copy of the child's birth certificate.
  • Proof of benefits received.
  • Confirmation that your child is either: Looked after and accommodated, under a Kinship Care Order or staying with a parent-appointed Guardian.
  • Proof of support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 if applicable.
  • Confirmation that the child is care experienced or has a parent who is care experienced.

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 - 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 us with details of the placement.

Important information

Please note - securing a place for your two-year-old child does not have any bearing on your child's 3 to 5 funded place. You will need to submit a separate application form for a three-to-five place.

Page last updated:
09 Apr 2024

Help us improve this pageClose

We're sorry this page didn't meet your expectations this time. Please let us know if you have any feedback to help us improve the content.

If you have a question or comment about a council service or would like a reply, please contact us.

Thank you for your feedback