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
- 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’)
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.