Funded early education for 2 year olds

Parents who are receiving certain benefits will be able to apply for funded 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 funded early education and childcare 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:

  • 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 an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

Both you and your spouse or partner's combined income will be considered when checking your eligibility.

Non economic criteria

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

  • 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 (DLA)

Non-EEA citizens who cannot claim benefits

Your 2-year-old may get free childcare if you are getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision - known as part 6
  • been refused asylum in the UK - known as section 4

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and you have either:

How to apply

All applications are made online using the Citizen Portal except those stated below.   For the online application, 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.

  • Online application exceptions

If your application is based upon your Non EEA status - contact Transformation and Commissioning FEEE team at or telephone 0116 454 1680

Eligible - what next

You will need to show your confirmation of eligibility to your selected childcare provider.   The offer of funded 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 funded 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 funded hours.  However, if your circumstance change, you can make another application using your Citizen Portal account. 

Your child will become eligible for funded 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