2. Free childcare and education for 2 to 4-year-olds

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.

Some 2-year-olds are also eligible.

You can get free education and childcare for children in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

When you can start claiming

The date you can start claiming depends on your child’s birthday.

Child’s birthday When you can claim
1 January to 31 March The beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August The beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December The beginning of term on or after 1 January

Example Your child was born on 15 February 2013. You can get free childcare when the next term starts after 1 April 2016.


The free early education and childcare must be with an approved childcare provider.

It stops once your child starts reception class in a state school.

Eligibility for 2-year-olds

Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you get one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit
  • 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)

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

  • they’re looked after by a local council
  • they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

Get more information about free childcare

You can get more information about free early education and childcare from your local council.