Funding for two-year-olds

This is a scheme that allows eligible children to receive early years education funding. Funding will begin from the term after their second birthday.

It has been set up by the Department for Education (DfE). Its purpose is to improve outcomes for two-year olds who would benefit from early years childcare provision.

Eligible children will be offered up to 15 hours per week for 38 weeks. If you choose a childcare provider who is open for more than 38 weeks, you may be able to stretch the funded hours across year.

Childcare providers will need to have an Ofsted rating of good or outstanding. If you want your child to take a place with a provider not rated good or outstanding, the provider needs to contact the Early Years Advisory Team.

Eligibility for funding

You can access funding if:

  • you claim welfare benefits (economic criteria)
  • your child is looked after by the local authority (non-economic criteria)
  • your child has extra needs (non-economic criteria)

You must have an income below £15,400 and be claiming the one of the following state benefits:

  • Income Support 
  • Income based Job Seekers’ Allowance 
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) 
  • Universal Credit - if you and your partner have a combined income from work of £15,400 or less a year after tax 
  • Tax credits and you have an income of £16,190 or less a year before tax
  • Guaranteed Element of the State Pension Credit 
  • Support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 
  • Working Tax Credit 4 week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) you can access funding if your child:

  • has left local authority care through a Special Guardianship Order, adoption or child arrangements order (previously residence order)
  • is currently a Looked after Child, for example in foster care
  • is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

For EHCP funding a form signed by the professional involved with your child is required.

 If you’re a non-EEA citizen 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 any of the following:

  • leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ on family or private life grounds
  • support from your local council because you have ‘a child in need’, for example they have a disability or a child protection plan
  • the right to live in the UK because you’re the main carer of a British citizen (known as a ‘Zambrano Carer’)

If you are a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits and are seeking a funded early education place for a two year old, email

Apply for Early Years funding

If you believe you may be eligible to claim for a two year old, the easiest way to apply is to use the Citizen Portal.

If your child is three or four years of age your chosen childcare provider will claim on your behalf.

When you apply, you will be asked to provide the following details:

  • your name
  • date of birth
  • contact details
  • National Insurance number or National Asylum Seekers number
  • child's name
  • child’s date of birth.

The details provided will be verified using the Citizen Portal.

If you meet the economic criteria, the Eligibility Checking Service will provide an immediate outcome for you. A reference number and further instructions on what to do will be provided on the Citizen Portal.

If you are not found on the eligibility checking service, you will receive instructions to check the information provided. If the wrong information was provided you can resubmit. You may be asked to contact us to provide documents to show that the economic criteria have been met.

If you meet the non-economic criteria you must tick the appropriate box in section three of the application. You will be prompted to send supporting evidence to the Early Years Advisory team.

If you need help in completing the application, please talk to your childcare provider.

Once a two-year old child has been accepted onto the scheme the funding will remain in place until the term after the child’s third birthday. After this time your child is eligible for universal funding.

Extra costs and services

There may be extra cost and services from your provider. For example:

  • childcare providers can charge for consumables such as meals, snacks or ask that you provide a packed lunch
  • other extra services may be charged such as pick-up services, French lessons, yoga, etc. The provider cannot say you have to take up these services as a condition of the funding
  • you may also be expected to provide disposables such as nappies and creams
  • payment for extra hours taken outside of the agreed funded hours are the responsibility of the parent/carer and does not form part of the funding contract. You will be expected to pay for extra hours over and above your funding entitlement.