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Childcare for two, three and four year olds

If you're the parent or carer of a two, three or four year old, find out how much childcare support you could get.

WarningYour free childcare doesn't cover all of the services your early years or childcare provider offers. For example, meals and snacks, consumables, additional services and hours aren't included. Check with your provider to see what extra things they charge for.

Two year olds

Eligibility

Your two year old could get up to 570 hours a year of childcare, which can be taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year (although some providers may offer different attendance patterns), if you receive one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support 
  • Income based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) 
  • Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (and have an annual income of under £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit (and have an annual income under £16,190)
  • Universal Credit (if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax)

Or, if your two year old:

  • Receives Disability Living Allowance
  • Is looked after by us (local council)
  • Has a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • Has left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
  • Is a child of a Zambrano Carer
  • Is a child of a family with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private or family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Is a child of a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘the 1999 Act’)

When you can claim

The 15 hours usually starts at the beginning of the term after your child's second birthday.

Term details
Child’s birthday Childcare can start from Academic term
1 April and 31 August Following September to December Autumn
1 September and 31 December Following January to March Spring
1 January and 31 March Following April to August Summer

If your two year old is confirmed as eligible for childcare part way through a term, this can start from the date they're confirmed as eligible, unless there's less than four weeks left in that term. If this happens, childcare will start from the beginning of the next term and won't be backdated. However, this doesn't stop anyone else paying for childcare (for example, through social care or a relative).

Apply for 15 hours

You can apply for 15 hours using our online form.

Apply for 15 hours online

Claim your 15 hours

After completing our form, we will check your child's eligibility before confirming this in writing to you.

If your two year old is eligible

If your two year old is eligible for 15 hours, you need to take the following actions:

  1. Find an approved childcare provider on our 1 Big Database website.
  2. Ask your provider for a new starter form (EYE2 form) when your child starts with them, at the start of the term after your child's birthday, or any time after this when you want to start claiming for funding.
  3. Hand your completed form back to your provider with a copy of your child's birth certificate (this only needs to be completed once for any child attending a childcare provider).
  4. Your childcare provider will do the rest.

You also need to sign a form at the start of each subsequent term (September, January and April) to confirm the number of hours your child is attending at their childcare provider. You MUST sign each term to ensure they get paid.

If your two year old is not eligible

If your two year old is not eligible, we will ask you to check your eligibility again and possibly re-apply in future.

Next steps

Your two year old will remain eligible for 15 hours until the term after they turn three years old, regardless of when they take up their funded place.

Three and four year olds

15 hours

All three and four year olds are entitled to 570 hours of childcare a year paid for by us, which can be taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year (although some providers may offer different attendance patterns). You can claim from the term after your child's third birthday (September, January or April) and this will stop when they start in reception class (or reach compulsory school age, if later).

Take the following actions to use your 15 hours:

  1. Find an approved childcare provider on our 1 Big Database website (all childcare must be provided by an approved childcare provider).
  2. Ask your childcare provider for a new starter form (EYE2 form) when your child starts with them, at the start of the term after your child's birthday, or any time after this when you want to start claiming for 15 hours.
  3. Hand your completed form back to your provider with a copy of your child's birth certificate (this only needs to be completed once for any child attending a childcare provider).
  4. Your childcare provider will do the rest.

You need to sign a form at the start of each subsequent term (September, January and April) to confirm the number of hours your child is attending at their childcare provider. You MUST sign each term to ensure they get paid.

30 hours

Some three and four year olds are entitled to 30 hours per week. Check to see if your child is eligible for 30 hours on GOV.UK and apply online.

Apply for 30 hours online

Other childcare support

Pupil premium

Your child could be eligible for the early years pupil premium, which is funding given to early years or childcare providers to then offer extra support to your child. Support can be anything from, providing extra one-to-one support, to investing in resources which will boost your child's learning.

Eligibility

If your child is three or four years old, receives the 15 hours funded childcare, and your family also receives one of the following benefits, they're eligible for the pupil premium straight away.

  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (with no Working Tax Credit) with an annual gross income no more than £16,190
  • Working Tax Credit run-on (which is paid for four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Universal Credit (if you're entitled to Universal Credit, you must have an annual net earned income equivalent to, and not above, £7,400 assessed on up to three of you or your partner's most recent Universal Credit assessment periods)

Or your three or four year old meets one of the following criteria:

  • They're currently being looked after by a Local Authority in England or Wales
  • They've left care in England or Wales through an adoption, a special guardianship order or a child arrangement order.

If your child attends any number of hours of funded childcare, they can also be eligible for the pupil premium. Early years and childcare settings receive funding which is proportionate to the number of hours your child takes up (this is based on universal funded hours only).

Please note, we'll check your eligibility to qualifying benefits on your behalf using the DFE online Free School Meal Eligibility Checking Service.

Register for pupil premium

When you complete a new starter form (EYE2) with your early years or childcare provider, you can register for pupil premium at the same time. Your early years or childcare provider will then pass this information on to us to check eligibility. Alternatively, call us on 01225 39 43 17 (you will need your National Insurance Number or National Asylum Seeker Support Number).

We'll let you know if you're eligible for pupil premium by giving you a unique reference number which you then give to your early years or childcare provider.

Childcare choices

You could be entitled to other childcare support instead of or as well as the above. Check to see what other childcare support you could get on the Childcare Choices website.