Parents' guide to Free for 2 funding

Some 2 year olds can get up to 15 hours of free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year. Some childcare providers offer fewer hours per week over extra weeks (up to 570 hours).

Your 2 year old can get free early education and childcare if you live in England and meet the government's eligibility criteria.

Find a childcare provider

You can use Free for 2 at a pre-school, nursery or childminder that has signed up with us to provide this service. There are many different patterns of funding delivery offered. Each provider:

  • will set out how and when they offer their free early education and childcare places
  • must deliver at least one free pattern.

Before accepting your child's place, check with the childcare provider whether:

  • they suit your child's needs
  • there are any extra conditions attached to their placement.

You can use your 15 hours:

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

Split your hours

You can split your 15 hours between providers. For example, a nursery and a childminder. Both must be signed up to deliver 2 year old funding. But, you can't use more than 2 sites each day. You don't have to use the whole 15 hours.

Not all providers can be flexible in how they offer the free hours. So, check with your chosen provider to make sure their offer suits your needs.

Stretch your funding

Some providers may offer a stretched pattern of hours. This means, you get fewer hours each week, but for more weeks of the year. You will need to discuss this with your chosen provider.

When to use your funding

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. These include:

  • 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.

Eligible 2 year olds can currently take up their free place at any time during the term once:

  • eligibility has been confirmed
  • they are in the eligible date of birth range.

What the provider needs from you

To claim funding, the provider will ask:

  • to see your voucher code
  • to see your child’s birth certificate or passport
  • you to complete a parental declaration form and will claim the funding for you.

There is no monetary value to you – the entitlement is up to 570 hours free childcare per year. The year starts when your child first becomes eligible for funding. They must also be in the correct date of birth range. The provider can only claim funding for your child:

  • from the date that eligibility is confirmed
  • if your child is in the correct date of birth range to receive a free place
  • once your child is present in a setting.

Funding cannot be backdated.

The provider will ask you to:

  • show them your voucher code
  • show them your child's birth certificate or passport
  • complete a parental declaration form and will claim the funding to you.

If you have not claimed the full 15 hours when your child starts with the provider, you may be able to increase the hours your 2 year old attends. You can do this in the middle of the term or academic period.

Transfer funding

Providers are under no obligation to transfer funding. If you switch providers during the term, you might need to pay the new one until the start of the next term.

If you need further information, contact our Kent Children and Families Information Service.

Or see information on making an appeal or complaint about free early education and childcare.

The funding is for early education and childcare. It is meant to deliver 15 hours of free, high quality childcare. It is not intended to cover the cost of:

  • meals
  • nappies
  • sun cream
  • additional hours
  • activities.

Therefore, expect to pay for these, even though they may be voluntary charges.

Fees for extra time or activities are private. They are between you and a provider. But, your provider must tell you the cost before you take up the extra time, consumables, or activities. Before you agree to take up a place make sure you understand what is being provided.

Your provider cannot charge you a top up. A top up is the difference between what they charge for a 2-year-old and the funding they receive from the government. They also cannot charge you for a deposit for your child's place.

Help is available for children with SEND, and their families. This is known as the local offer.

This includes education, health and social care support for children, including those who do not have education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Visit our SEND information hub.

If you need further information, please contact our Kent Children and Families Information Service.

See information on making an appeal or complaint about free early education and childcare.