Free early education for two year olds

Who qualifies?

You - Benefits criteria

Your child will qualify for a free place if you get:

  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • The guaranteed part of State Pension Credit
  • Tax Credit and you have an annual household income of under £16,190 before tax
  • Universal credit and you have an annual income of less than £15,400 after tax
  • Support through 'part 6' under the Immigration and Asylum Act

> To check your eligibility against the benefits criteria, use our online checker.              

Get benefits? Check eligibility now - do an online check here

The online check will return an immediate result via email. If you are eligible under the qualifying benefits criteria, you will be emailed an eligibility certificate. Print it out and take it to your chosen childcare provider.

Child criteria

Children qualify in their own right if:

  • they are looked after by a local council
  • they have a child protection plan
  • they get disability living allowance
  • they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN)
  • they have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan
  • they left care through special guardianship or an adoption or residence order

> If you think the child qualifies in their own right, email or call 020 3373 0980 and we can confirm what evidence we need to assess your claim.

NRPF criteria - If you are a non-UK citizen who cannot claim benefits - No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)

If your immigration status says you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, you may still get free childcare for your 2-year-old. You must live in England and your household income must be no more than:

  • £34,500 for families within London with one child.
  • £38,600 for families within London with two or more children.
  • you cannot have more than £16,000 in savings or investments.

If you are an Asylum Seeker and have a Port Reference Number or an Application Registration Card (ARC), you may be eligible for a funded place for your child. 

> If you wish to claim against the NRPF criteria please email for information and an application form. You will be required to provide evidence to support the application.


From April 2024, working parents of 2-year-olds can access 15 hours per week (eligibility criteria applies).  This is part of the expansion of the 30 hours entitlement. Please visit our 30 hours page here for more information and how to apply.

What your child gets

Your child can receive 15 hours of free early education per week, 38 weeks per year.  Free places are offered as:

  • three hours per day over five days
  • five hours per day over three days
  • 15 hours spread over the week
  • or the hours can be stretched out to meet your needs.

When your child can start

If your two year old qualifies for free early education, they will usually start in the term after their second birthday.

If we have not contacted you, but you think your child is eligible, call us on 020 3373 0980 or email

Where your child can get free early education

Free early education and childcare can be at:

  • all types of nurseries and nursery classes
  • playgroups and pre-schools
  • childminders

The provider must be registered with Ofsted and included on our approved list of early learning providers for two year olds.

Before you choose a provider for your child, find out more about different types of childcare on offer. You can also get tips on how to choose a childcare provider.

All our approved childcare providers are inclusive settings.  If your child has additional needs you can be confident that they will receive the necessary care and support, whether you decide to take up a place with a childminder, with a private or independent nursery, with a maintained nursery school or with a school nursery. 

Click here for a list of approved providers for two year olds

Watch our short film about free early education for two year olds

Click here to play the video.

Contact us

For more information you can email us on or call us on 020 3373 0980.

Last updated: 11/01/2024

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