Skip to main content

15 hours free early learning for 2-year-olds

Is your family living on a low income or claiming income based benefits? Does your two year old have additional needs, or have they left care? You may be entitled to claim free childcare up to a maximum of 15 hours during term time, or 11 hours per week throughout the year.

Every eligible child will be given the opportunity to experience high quality early years’ education with the support of a trained, high quality registered childminder, nursery, children’s centre or pre-school.  The aim of the programme is to enable your child to receive high quality early education that will help them to be school ready. 

Please have a look at the content sections and the information video below for further details:

Who is eligible?

The term after your child turns 2, they may be eligible for 15 hours of funded early education for 38 weeks of the year (term time), if you receive one of the following benefits: 

  • income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit (or both), and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

2-year-olds can also get free childcare if they:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order

You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.

If you’re a non- UK citizen who cannot claim benefits:

If your immigration status says you have ‘no recourse to public funds’ (including if you are an asylum seeker), you may still get free childcare for your 2-year-old. You must live in England and your household income must be no more than:

  • £26,500 for families outside of London with one child
  • £34,500 for families within London with one child
  • £30,600 for families outside of London with two or more children
  • £38,600 for families within London with two or more children

You cannot have more than £16,000 in savings or investments.

For families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), please have a look at the following document: No recourse to public funds.

When can I apply

You can apply when your child is 20 months old; however, applications will be processed as follows:

  • child’s second birthday between 1 January and 31 March are entitled to their free place from the start of summer term in April (applications accepted from January)

  • child’s second birthday between 1 April and 31 August are entitled to their free place from the start of the autumn term in September (applications accepted from April)

  • child’s second birthday between 1 September and 31 December are entitled to their free place from the start of the spring term in January (applications accepted from September)

Note: Any applications for children under 20 months old will not be processed

How can I apply?

You can complete your online application on the Parent Portal. This is the quickest and clearest way to ensure your information is received by the Bi-Borough Childcare and Early Education Service.

You can make your application to see if your child is eligible once they turn 20 months old. If your child is eligible, your child will receive their ticket on time for them to start on their due date (the term after they turn 2 years old).

If you have any difficulty completing the form, you can get help from your local children's centre. Alternatively, you can get assistance from a member of the Early Years team by emailing; or by calling 07814 804262.

The details you provide will be used to check if your child is eligible for a free place. 

It can take a few weeks to process applications provided the form is completed correctly. If your application has been successful, you will receive a letter in a blue envelope addressed to your child including a ticket. This ticket can be taken to your chosen nursery or childminder to receive the free hours.

When can my child access their free hours? 

Your ticket is valid until the end of the term when your child will turn 3. Once your child turns 3, your child will be able to enjoy the universal entitlement of 15 hours for 3 and 4 year olds (up to 30 hours for eligible children). You will not need a ticket for this, it will be managed by your nursery or childminder.

Please see the table below of how the terms work in relation to your child’s birthday: 

Child’s second birthday falls between:


They will be entitled to their free place from:

1 April and 31 August

The start of the Autumn term in September (after the summer holidays)

1 September and 31 December

The start of the Spring term in January (after the Christmas holidays)

1 January and 31 March

The start of the Summer term in April (after the Easter holidays)

Where can my child use this ticket? 

You can use this ticket with any nursery or childminder that are registered to offer this scheme. If your chosen nursery or childminder has spaces available you will be given a start date, otherwise your child may be placed on a waiting list. Most children will be able to stay with the same childcare provider until they move to Reception (at 4 years old.

Please find a list of Early Years Providers offering 15 hours free education and childcare for 2-year-olds:

Funded places for 2-year-olds

If you need at identifying a nursery or childminder that offer free places, please contact the Family Information Service:

Te;: 07971 625922 / Email:

The following video explains about these free hours work and also about the benefits for child. This can also be accessed in:  AlbanianArabicFrenchPortugueseSomaliSpanishTigrinya

Last Updated 06/09/2023

Share your feedback on this page

Please provide feedback on our website. Try to include any constructive suggestions for improvements and we will do our best to incorporate them.