All 3 and 4 year olds and some 2 year olds are entitled to up to 15 hours of free early education and childcare over 38 weeks of the year. If you are a working parent, your 3 and 4 year olds may be entitled to another 15 hours of childcare. Some providers may allow you to stretch your childcare over more weeks by using fewer hours each week.
There are a number of other schemes available to help with childcare costs. To check your eligibility go to the Childcare Choices website.
Once you have been confirmed eligible for a free 2 year old place, the funding will remain with your child until they take up their free 3 year old place – even if your circumstances change.
Find out if your child is eligible
|Child born between||Will become eligible for free early education and childcare|
|1 January and 31 March||The start of term 5 following their second birthday (after Easter holiday)|
|1 April and 31 August||The start of term 1 following their second birthday (after summer holiday)|
|1 September and 31 December||The start of term 3 following their second birthday (after Christmas/New Year holiday)|
You can apply for Free for 2 when your child reaches the age of one year and ten months. Please do not apply before this time.
Although you can apply and may be given a voucher code when your child is at this age, you will not be eligible to receive a free childcare place until the term after your child’s second birthday, as outlined in the table above.
You will need to create an account using an email address to make an application.
Use our guidance for support using the application system (PDF, 829.8 KB) if you need it.
If you think you meet the government criteria for 2 year old funding, complete an application below.
If you are a non-UK citizen who cannot claim benefits and do not have a National Insurance (NI) or National Asylum Support Service (NASS), please email email@example.com for more information.
You are no longer able to use Microsoft Internet Explorer to complete a Free for 2 application. You will need to use a different web browser such as Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Safari.
- go to your local children’s centre - they can help you apply
- ask your preferred childcare provider to help you apply. The provider must be registered with us as well as Ofsted. If you're not sure whether they're registered, you can see our list of all providers who offer the funding, ask the provider or call us on 03000 41 23 23 to find out.
For more information on eligibility and using your free childcare for 2 year olds, read our guide for parents.
For more information about using your free childcare, read our parents' guide to 15 hours (universal) funding.
Find out when your 3 year old is eligible
The Department for Education sets the dates for when children become eligible by age. These eligibility dates apply to both the universal (15 hours) and extended (30 hours) entitlement.
|Child born between||Will become eligible for free childcare|
|1 January and 31 March||The start of term 5 following their third birthday (after Easter holiday)|
|1 April and 31 August||The start of term 1 following their third birthday (after summer holiday)|
|1 September and 31 December||The start of term 3 following their third birthday (after Christmas/New Year holiday)|
30 hours of free childcare
Eligible working families with 3 and 4 year olds can receive up to 30 hours of free childcare each week. This is an extra 15 hours of free childcare in addition to the universal entitlement and is known as extended entitlement.
It is available over 38 weeks a year or some childcare providers may offer fewer hours per week over more weeks a year (up to 1,140 hours in total for the combined 30 hours).
Apply for 30 hours
You must apply for your 30 hours eligibility code in the term before your child becomes eligible by age or if already eligible by age, in the term before you wish to take up the offer. The government has recommended application periods. If you do not apply within these recommended periods you may not get your code in time. If you do not apply for and receive your code before the deadline date you will not be able to take up your place until the term after.
|When your child turns 3||When they can get 30 hours from||Recommended time to apply||Deadline for applying|
|1 September to 31 December||1 January||15 October to 30 November||31 December|
|1 January to 31 March||1 April||15 January to 28 February||31 March|
|1 April to 31 August||1 September||15 June to 31 July||31 August|
To find out about full eligibility criteria, how to apply and other information read our guide to 30 hour funding.
Healthy Start and free vitamins
If you are pregnant or have a child under 4, you could be eligible for the Healthy Start card for money towards milk, formula, fruit and veg. Once accepted you can also apply for free vitamins.