Free childcare for 2 year olds

Some 2 year olds can get up to 15 hours of free childcare each week. This is a national childcare scheme.


The scheme is currently available to 2 year olds:

  • who are looked after by the local authority
  • who are no longer looked after by the local authority as a result of an adoption order, a special guardianship order or a residence order
  • who have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan
  • whose parents receive specific benefits.

Please note due to the recent consultation, Eligibility for the Free Early Years Entitlements for Two-Year-Olds under Universal Credit, the Department for Education has asked local authorities not to confirm any places for children in families on Universal Credit who turn 2 during the Spring 2018 term and would therefore start their place in the Summer 2018 term. The outcome of the consultation may affect their eligibility to take up a place. Local authorities should confirm places for children (including those in families on Universal Credit) who turn 2 before 1 January 2018 and meet the current eligibility criteria.

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 financial circumstances change.

Find out when your child is eligible

Child born betweenWill become eligible for free childcare
1 January and 31 MarchThe start of Term 5 following their third birthday (after April holiday)
1 April to 31 AugustThe start of Term 1 following their third birthday (after Summer holiday)
1 September to 31 DecemberThe start of Term 3 following their third birthday (after Christmas/New Year holiday)


Apply online now

If you can’t apply online you need to either:

  • 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.

Please do not apply more than once as this can delay the checking process.


You can use your 15 hours:

  • between 6am and 8pm
  • for a maximum of 10 hours a day.

You can split your 15 hours between providers, for example a nursery and a childminder, but at no more than 2 sites each day. You don't have to use the whole 15 hours.

If you want more than 15 hours, you will need to pay the extra cost yourself.


The 38 weeks or more of free hours can be used in line with the following academic periods. Your childcare provider will tell you how many weeks you can use during each period.

  • Autumn: 1 September to 31 December
  • Spring: 1 January to last day of the spring holiday
  • Summer: First day of the summer term to 31 August

Check the exact dates of the holidays and terms on our term dates page.