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Early Education Funding for 2 Year Olds

Some 2 year old children in England are eligible for 15 hours of Early Education Funding.

Am I Eligible?

Click here to find out if you are eligible for funded childcare for your 2 year old.  If you meet at least one of the criteria listed below you should be entitled to 15 hours early education funding for your two year old child:

  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit (annual net income of up to £15,400)
  • Jobseeker's Allowance (Income-based)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (Income-based)
  • support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit calculated on an annual income not over £16,190
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Children of Zambrano Carers;
  • Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private/family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
  • Children of a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘the 1999 Act’).


  • Children who receive Disability Living Allowance
  • Children Looked After by the Local Authority
  • Children who have left Local Authority care through special guardianship (fostered), or through adoption or residence order
  • Children who have a current Statement of Educational Needs or Education, Health and Care Plan

How Can You Apply?

Through the online eligibility checker.  When you submit the form it will automatically check your eligibility and provide an instant response. If you are eligible your confirmation email will contain a unique reference number for you to take to an early year's setting of your choice. You can easily request a list of childcare provision in your area, if required.  If you do not have access to the online checker then you can download a printed application form here.  If you would like to apply in person visit the Welcome Desk, above the Central Library in the Dolphin Centre.

Please Note: if you are applying under the Disability Living Allowance criteria you must provide the necessary documentation as prescribed on the application form to the Welcome Area, at the Dolphin Centre.

Would You Like Assistance?

Please contact the Childcare Brokerage Team from the Family Information Service on 01202 261970, who will be happy to help you, please read more.

If Eligible, When Can My Child Start?

An eligible child can access 15hrs per week of Early Education from the beginning of the funding period following their second birthday.

The Department for Education sets the funding period dates as:

  • September Period    -   between 1 September and 31 December
  • January Period        -   between 1 January and 31 March
  • April  Period            -   between 1 April and 31 August

Where Can My Child Access Free Early Education?

You can access a place at a day nursery, pre-school, independent nursery school, school nursery or childminder that is approved to provide early education funding for 2 year olds.  A full list of all registered providers can be obtained here.

What is My Child's Entitlement?

You are entitled to 15 hours Early Education funding per week across 38 weeks per year.

If you can't use the full 15 hours per week at one provider, you can share the entitlement with a second provider.

If you use less than 15 hours per week you may be able to use any remainder during school holidays either with your current provider or a different provider. Speak with your provider about this; it's sometimes referred to as 'stretching hours'.

If you only use your Early Education funding it should be completely free. If providers charge for any goods or services, this is not a condition of children accessing a place. Such goods or services might include meals, optional extra activities or additional hours of provision in addition to the funded place. Please check with your provider for full details.

You may have to pay a reservation fee or deposit at the time of signing your Parent/Carer Declaration Form, although you should receive your deposit back in a timely manner.

Providers can choose what time of day they offer Early Education funded hours or sessions. Some will only offer morning sessions for example. Unless there is a capacity issue every provider should be able to offer at least 15 hours per week and this should be discussed with you while you decide if the setting is right for your child.

The maximum session is 10 hrs per day between 6am and 8pm (subject to availability at your chosen provider - the provider does not have to be open during these hours).

If your child does not attend regularly, the Local Authority will consider ending entitlement. Regular attendance is important preparation for school.

How Does Early Education Funding Entitlement Work?

Once you have chosen your childcare provider, they will explain to you when the  early education funding will begin and confirm the availability of places. You will then be asked to complete a Parent/Carer Declaration Form signing up to the terms and conditions of the entitlement. Your child's entitlement will not begin without this form. Your child's childcare provider will claim the entitlement on your behalf - you do not need to do anything else.

You should be aware that this document is a legally binding contract and you should read it carefully and discuss any issues with the childcare provider.

If you need help with finding suitable childcare, contact our Childcare Brokerage Service on 01202 261970.

Can My Child Attend for More than 15 Hours Per Week?

Yes, but only a maximum entitlement of 15 hours per week will be funded and you will be required to pay any provider costs for the additional hours.

How Do I Change Providers and Still Receive the Funded Entitlement?

Once you have completed a parent/carer declaration form, you have signed up to have your child's entitlement with that provider.

The entitlement will not automatically transfer with your child to a new provider if you decide to move your child, or not begin with a provider you have signed a contract with.

Your provider is entitled to request up to 4 calendar weeks notice of leaving, please refer to the contract you signed with the provider for further details.  They will ask your help to complete a transfer form requesting the transfer of your child's early education funding. This form can be obtained from your childcare provider.  If you have a Safety, SEN or Quality reason for leaving and want to let us know directly please get in touch.

It's important that the old provider, you and the new provider all know the remaining hours balance for your child and that any notice due is served.  We will confirm the transfer of hours and your new provider will need to let you know accordingly.

What Additional Charges Might I be Asked to Pay?

You have to pay for any hours your child attends over and above the number of funded hours per week.

Additional services such as meals, snacks, drinks and trips, and extra activities such as music and dance etc are not covered by early education funding, and the childcare provider may charge you for these.

At the beginning of each new term, the childcare provider should tell you about any charges that may be incurred, enabling you to make an informed choice as to whether the childcare provider is right for you and your child.

If your child attends a childcare provider outside of your Local Authority area the funding will be paid by the Local Authority where your child attends. 

What if I am Claiming Childcare Through Working Tax Credits?

Early Education funding does not affect benefits received. However, the funding does mean that your childcare costs will be lower, so if you are claiming the childcare element of Working Tax Credit, you should only claim for the childcare fees you are paying to prevent an overpayment.

HMRC0345 300 3900