Family Information

Free early education for 2 year olds

Parents who are receiving certain benefits will be able to apply for free early education for their two year old child.

If eligible, the child will be able to attend an approved childcare setting for up to 15 hours per week during term time, or 570 hours stretched across the year.  Read more information about the stretched offer

Who is eligible

The offer of free early education for two year old children is available to those who meet one of the following criteria: 

Economic criteria

The parent must be claiming one of the following and have an gross annual household income of no more than £16,190. 
Both you and your spouse or partner's income will be considered when checking your eligibility. 

  • Income support
  • Income-based job seekers allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of state pension credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Working tax credit
  • Universal credit

Non economic criteria

  • The child is a looked after by the local authority
  • The child is no longer looked after by the local authority as a result of an adoption order, a special guardianship order or a residence order.
  • The child has a current statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan.
  • The child is entitled to disability living allowance.

How to apply

Applications are made online using the Citizen Portal.  You will require a valid email address to register for an account and once registered, you can make your application using the relevant criteria - economic or non economic criteria.  

If your application is based upon the economic criteria you will receive an instant decision.  All other applications will require administration and documentary evidence before a decision is made.

Eligible - what next

You will need to show your confirmation of eligibility to your selected childcare provider.   The offer of free places can only be taken with childcare providers who have been approved to deliver the funding.  Find an approved provider.

If the setting is right for your child and meet your child care needs, the provider will go through the registration forms with you.  This will include a parental agreement for receiving the free entitlement. 

When will the funding start

The funded place will start the school term after the eligible child's second birthday.  See eligible age range for more information.


Not eligible - what next

If you do not meet the criteria, it will not be possible to received the free hours.  However, if your circumstance change, you can make another application using your Citizen Portal account. 

Your child will become eligible for free early education for three and four year olds from the start of the school term following their third birthday.   

Lost eligibility confirmation

You can retrieve your confirmation and eligibility code by logging into your Citizen Portal account. 

Further support

A portal user guide is available to download to support users to manage their Citizen Portal account.  

For further guidance, view the frequently asked questions

If you do not have access to the internet, visit your local library to use a computer free of charge.

If you require additional support with completing your application online, visit your nearest Children's Centre.