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15 hours free childcare for 2 year olds

Apply for 2 year old funding

Use our online form to confirm your eligibility and apply.

Who can apply?

Your child might be eligible if you receive any of these benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit and earn £16,190 or less per year
  • Child Tax Credit and earn £16,190 or less per year
  • Universal Credit and earn £15,400 or less per year 
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • support under part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Or if your child:

  • is looked after by the local council
  • has left care through special guardianship, adoption or residency order
  • receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • has an education, health and care (EHC) plan

What you will get

Your child can get up to 15 hours free childcare for 38 weeks of the year. Some childcare providers may allow you to use your free hours over more weeks by using fewer hours each week. Speak to your childcare provider to find out if you can spread the funding over more weeks.

You can use the 15 hours at more than one childcare provider. 

The funding doesn't cover the cost of additional services or items and your childcare provider may charge extra for these. These could be:

  • lunch
  • nappies
  • trips
  • music classes

Even so, you must not be asked to pay a fee as a condition of taking up a 15 hours place, and must be offered alternative options such as choosing to provide your own child's lunch, for example. 

How and when to apply

Golden ticket

We send a golden ticket to some eligible families. If you get a golden ticket, you can use it to book your child's place with your chosen childcare provider to start claiming your free hours. If your golden ticket expires, you can receive the funding by applying online. 

You could still be eligible if you don't receive a golden ticket, but you need to follow these steps to apply:

  1. Use the online form to check and confirm your eligibility if you're claiming any of the benefits listed. Contact the Family Information Service if you aren't claiming benefits, but you meet the other eligibility criteria.
  2. Search our Family Information Directory for a registered or approved childcare provider. You can filter your search by those offering free early education and childcare. 
  3. Speak to your chosen childcare provider to book your child's place. We advise you to contact them the term before you want to use the funding to book your child's place in good time. 

Contact the Family Information Service for help if you can't find suitable childcare.

When will the free childcare start?

If eligible, you can get 15 hours free childcare the term after your child's second birthday. This means it would start either in January, April or September. 

Find the date you can apply from in this table:

Eligibility dates for 2 year old free childcare funding
Must be 2 years old byDate child is eligible for funding from
31 December 1 January (spring term)
31 March 1 April (summer term)
31 August 1 September (autumn term)

Your child will continue to be eligible for 15 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds.

If you work, you could be eligible for up to 30 hours of free childcare the term after they turn 3.

What types of childcare can I use with the funding?

You can only use the free childcare for two year olds with registered or approved childcare providers who offer early education funding and are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. This includes:

  • childminders
  • pre-schools, playgroups and nurseries

Search for childcare

Search our Family Information Directory to find childcare providers who can offer the scheme. You can filter your search by those offering free early education and childcare.

Can you claim other childcare funding at the same time?

If you're eligible, you can claim other funding schemes at the same time, including:

Find out which funding schemes work best for your family with the online childcare calculator

Make a complaint about your childcare provider or funding

Find out what to do if you want to complain about your childcare provider, funding or free childcare.

15 hours free childcare for 2 year olds if you live in Christchurch

Find out about  claiming 15 hours free childcare in Christchurch

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