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Free Early Education Entitlement for 2 Year Olds

The consultation into the eligibility criteria for free 2-year-old childcare places to those on Universal Credit has now finished and the changes will come into effect from April 1st 2018. 

However, please note that whilst these changes are fully implemented across the country, we will be only be able to manually check claims for the free 2-year-old places for families who are in receipt of Universal Credit as the online facility will be temporarily unavailable. This will be corrected very soon and we appreciate your patience at this time.

Standard Criteria April 2018 onwards

The criteria for accessing 15 hours worth of free education for some 2-year-olds is stated below. Up to 15 hours per week over a minimum of 38 weeks per year is available, depending on your family circumstances, with nurseries, playgroups or childminders.

To be eligible to receive a free early education place for your 2-year old, you will need to meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Income Support
  • Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Universal Credit (with net household earnings of no more than £15,400)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit/ Working Tax Credits providing you have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190
  • The child has a current Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • The child attracts Disability Living Allowance
  • Looked after children and children who have left care through adoption orders, child arrangement or special guardianship orders

Changes to Universal Credit claims explained
When Universal Credit was first introduced back in 2013, in order to make it fairer and simpler whilst the new benefit was being rolled out across the country, it was decided that, temporarily, everyone who claimed it would be eligible to access 15 hours free childcare for their 2-year-olds.

It was designed to ensure that families moving on to Universal Credit in the early stages did not lose any entitlements during that initial teething period. However, since Autumn 2017, the national rollout of Universal Credit has accelerated, and as was always planned, new criteria for this entitlement, as well as Free School Meals (FSM) & Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP), would be looked at and updated following a consultation period. 

The net earnings limit of £15,400 is the maximum amount the person claiming takes home after tax but before most benefits have been deducted. 

We have created this FAQs Sheet which should hopefully help answer any further questions you may have.


Your child turns 2 between:

You can apply for a place:

Your child will start their funded place:

1 April - 31 August 1 May - 31 August 1 September (Autumn Term)
1 September - 31 December 1 October - 31 December 1 January (Spring Term)
1 January - 31 March 1 February - 31 March 1 April (Summer Term)


Children like to explore the world around them, play with other children and have fun. Good early years education from a young age can help children to:

  • Become more confident
  • Play and join in with other children
  • Develop their language skills
  • Learn new things
  • Prepare for school

Please check the criteria listed above carefully to see if your child could be eligible for a funded place. If you think that you might be eligible, then you can Apply Online  or alternatively you can ring the Free Early Education Entitlement Team using the contact information below and we will do the check for you and give you an immediate response.

If you are caring for a Looked After Child or your child is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or has left care through adoption, special guardianship order or is subject to a child arrangement order then please do not apply online as you will automatically qualify and do not require a check. In these circumstances please contact the Free Early Education Entitlement Team on 01744 676541/676542/676557.