All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.
Two-year-old children in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and/or an Education Health and Care plan (EHC) are also eligible for the 15 hours entitlement.
Approved providers include childminders, playgroups, pre-schools and day nurseries that are registered and inspected by OFSTED or for childminders registered with a childminding agency. Parents can choose which provider they would like their child to go to, as long as they have places available.
If you are a working parent, you may be able to claim 30 hours.
When you can start claiming
The date you can start claiming depends on your child’s birthday.
|Child’s birthday||When you can claim|
|1 January to 31 March||The beginning of term on or after 1 April|
|1 April to 31 August||The beginning of term on or after 1 September|
|1 September to 31 December||The beginning of term on or after 1 January|
Example: Your child was born on 15 February 2018. You can get free childcare when the next term starts after 1 April 2021.
The free early education and childcare must be with an approved childcare provider.
It stops once your child starts reception class in a state school.
Eligibility for 2-year-olds
Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you get one of the following:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Universal Credit
- tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
- child tax credit where you are not also entitled to working tax credit under the Tax Credits Act 2002( 2 ) and have an annual gross income not exceeding £16,190
- the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
Your 2-year-old may also get free childcare if you are getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:
- claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as ‘part 6’)
- been refused asylum in the UK (known as ‘section 4’)
Access to the Early Years entitlements for Hong Kong's British Nationals BN(O)s will be the same as for all other individuals subject to immagration control and BN(O)s will need to follow existing guidance about accessing the Early Years entitlements.
A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and you have any of the following:
- leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ on family or private life grounds
- support from your local council because you have ‘a child in need’, for example they have a disability or a child protection plan
- the right to live in the UK because you’re the main carer of a British citizen (known as a ‘Zambrano Carer’)
Contact the Early Education Support Team if you’re unsure if you can get free childcare.
A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:
- they’re looked after by a local council
- they have a current education, health and care (EHC) plan
- they get Disability Living Allowance
- they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
You do not have to use all of your hours with the same childcare provider, your child is entitled to a total of 15 hours free care a week and you choose where and when you use those hours.