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Free early education for 2 year olds

Some 2 year olds are eligible for 15 hours free early education funding.

Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you live in England and get one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • tax credits and you have a household annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:

  • they’re looked after by a local council
  • they have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

A child can also get free early education funding if you’re a non-UK citizen who cannot claim benefits

If your immigration status says you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, you may still get free childcare for your 2-year-old. You must live in England and your household income must be no more than:

  • £26,500 for families outside of London with one child
  • £34,500 for families within London with one child
  • £30,600 for families outside of London with two or more children
  • £38,600 for families within London with two or more children

You cannot have more than £16,000 in savings or investments.

How to apply

For economic criteria - you will need your national insurance number.

For non-economic criteria you will need to supply evidence that supports your application.

Apply for Funded Early Education and Childcare

If the above criteria do not apply to you and you are a parent/carer looking to make an application for the new entitlements that will be available to working families of 2-year-olds from April 2024, then please visit Childcare Choices for more information on how to apply. 

What happens next?

After you apply and if you are entitled you will receive a code to take to an approved provider. You also need to take your child's birth certificate and proof of address.

When can my child start?

Eligible children are able to start the term after their second birthday.

Born between: Can start from: When can I apply?
1 January to 31 March (inclusive) The start of the summer funding period (April) following their 2nd birthday, until they access Free Entitlement 3 and 4 year olds  January
1 April to 31 August (inclusive) The start of the autumn funding period (September) following their 2nd birthday, until they access  Free Entitlement 3 and 4 year olds  April
1 September to 31 December (inclusive) The start of the spring funded period (January) following their 2nd birthday, until they access  Free Entitlement 3 and 4 year olds  September

The two-year-old funding voucher will tell you the earliest date that your child can start their funded place.

Find funded two-year-olds places near you

Not all providers are registered or eligible to take funded two-year-olds. Enter a postcode or place name to find providers near you.

If you've been unable to find a childcare place, the Family Information Service may be able to help. 

Common questions and answers

Will there be any additional costs?

Your 15 hours of early education is completely free.

  • No charge for enrolling your child
  • No fees

A refundable deposit may be charged to secure your place.

However if you want your child to attend more than 15 hours per week you can pay for extra hours at some providers.

How long does a funded two year old place last?

Until your child reaches the term after their third birthday when they become eligible for universal free nursery education for 3 and 4 year olds

Does my child need to take all the hours to start with?

No, you can begin by taking a few hours each week and build up the amount of hours, to no more than 15 a week, if the childcare provider is able to accommodate. However, you will need to stick to the same number of hours each week over one term.

Can my child have a place all year round?

This depends on the provider. Some may offer you the option to 'stretch' your child's free hours over more than 38 weeks i.e. fewer hours over more weeks. Talk to your provider about this.

What if my finances change?

Once eligibility has been confirmed, your child will remain eligible for the funding until the term after they turn three.

Do I need to print the Two Year Old Funding voucher?

No, the childcare provider simply needs to know your reference number. 

I believe that I am eligible for the funding but the system says that I have been unsuccessful. What can I do?

If you have recently begun claiming an eligible benefit, it sometimes takes a little while for the system to update. You can submit an application again but do not re-apply once you have received a code.

What happens if my child does not attend the childcare provider?

You should let the provider know of non-attendance. If attendance is irregular without any valid reason, you will be supported in the first instance but if the place is not being reasonably fully used then it may be offered to someone else.

Can my child attend a childcare provider outside Oxfordshire?

Yes. However as we can only fund providers in Oxfordshire you would need to apply to the relevant council.

Can I split the funding between two settings?

You may split it if providers agree although it is generally better for a child if they attend just one setting.  Schools and academies nurseries would expect a child to attend for the full 15 hours.

Information for providers on the scheme