Claim free childcare for two-year-olds in England

Some children in England are eligible for 15 hours of free hours of early-years childcare and education when they are two-years-old.

All three to four-year-olds are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year. Usually this is taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks per year.

If you, as a parent, are currently claiming one of the following, then your two-year-old is entitled to the 15 free hours allowance:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit and have an annual income under £16,190
  • The guarantee element of State Pension Credit
  • The Working Tax Credit  four-week run on
  • Universal Credit

Your child might also qualify if you don't meet those criteria

There are also a number of criteria that apply to your child rather than to you as a parent.

If any of the following apply, your child will be entitled to the free hours allowance for two-year-olds:

  • they are looked after by their local authority
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they have a current statement of Special Education Needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan
  • they have left care under a Special Guardianship Order, Child Arrangements Order or Adoption Order.

If you’re eligible, the free education and childcare must:

  • Be with an approved childcare provider
  • Start after the term or your child’s 2nd birthday.

Claim free childcare for two-year-olds in Scotland

You can get free early learning and childcare if your child is two-years-old and you, as a parent, get one of these benefits:

  • Income Support (IS)
  • Job Seeker's Allowance (income based)
  • any income related element of Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity or Severe Disablement Allowance
  • State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC), but not Working Tax Credit and your income is less than £16,105
  • both maximum CTC and maximum Working Tax Credit and your income is under £6,420
  • support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit (you can claim this if your income is less than £610 a month)

Your child might also qualify if you don't meet those criteria

Your child is also eligible if they’re two-years-old or older and is or, since they turned 2, has been:

  • looked after by a local council
  • the subject of a kinship care order
  • the subject of a guardianship order

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

In Scotland, you can also get up to 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare a year (around 16 hours a week in term time) if your child is three or four years old.

Claim free childcare for two-year-olds in Wales

As part of the Flying Start programme, young children living in disadvantaged communities are eligible for part-time childcare.

For children aged two to three-years-old, they can get 2.5 hours a day for five days a week, 39 weeks of the year.

More on the Flying Start programme can be found on the Welsh Government website.

Childcare for two-year-olds in Northern Ireland

Unfortunately there are no schemes to provide free childcare for children under two in Northern Ireland.

But all parents of children aged between three and four-years-old can apply to receive 12.5 hours per week of free preschool education.

But this can only be taken over 2.5 hours per day, five days a week, during term time.

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