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.

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Free for 2 can be used at a pre-school, nursery or childminder that has signed up with KCC to provide this service. Each provider will set out how and when they offer their free early education and childcare places. There will be many different patterns of delivery offered. Each provider must deliver at least one free pattern.

Before accepting a place you will need to check with the provider that their offer suits your needs and if there are any additional conditions attached to it.

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.

Not all providers can be flexible in the way they offer the free hours, so you will need to check with your chosen provider to make sure their offer suits your needs.

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

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 and providing they are in the eligible date of birth range. Funding can only start from the date that eligibility is confirmed and your child is present in a setting, it cannot be backdated.

The provider will ask to see your child’s birth certificate or passport and your confirmation of eligibility. They will also ask 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.

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

Providers are under no obligation to transfer funding. If you choose to change provider during the term you may be required to pay the new provider until the start of the next term. In exceptional circumstances, such as a move of setting because of adoption, you can make an appeal. Contact our Kent Children and Families Information Service for more information on making an appeal or visit the free early education and childcare for parents section on our complaints page.

The early education and childcare funding is intended to deliver 15 hours of free, high quality childcare. It is not intended to cover the cost of the meals, other consumables such as nappies or sun cream, additional hours or activities. Parents can therefore be expected to pay for these although these charges might be voluntary.

Fees for any additional time or activities are a private matter between you and a provider, although your provider must let you know the cost before you take up the additional time, consumables or activities. Before you agree to take up a place make sure you understand what is being provided.

You cannot be charged a top up (the difference between what the provider normally charges for a 2 year old and the funding they receive from the government) for the free early education and childcare place you receive. The setting cannot charge you a deposit for a 2 year old place.

There is support available for pre-school children with special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities, and their families. This is called the local offer, and includes education, health and social care support for children, including those who do not have education, health and care plans.

Find support for children with special educational needs and disabilities and their families.

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

See information about making an appeal or complaint about Free Early Education and Childcare.