Accessing the funding

There are three different funding periods in the year. Your child becomes eligible for funding at the beginning of the period after their second birthday.

The following table shows when these funding periods are:

Child has second birthday between Date eligible Earliest date to apply
1 April and 31 August 1 September 1 June
1 September and 31 December 1 January 1 October
1 January and 31 March 1 April 1 January

To be considered for two year old funding, a child and their family must meet be in receipt of at least one of the following benefits:

  • 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 four-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 (fostered)
    • 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

If you would like to refer a family who does not meet the criteria above but where a significant need has been identified by a professional involved with the family, please complete this application with a supporting statement.


The term 'looked after' was introduced by the Children Act 1989 and refers to children who are subject to care orders and those who are voluntarily accommodated. Here are some examples of looked after children:

  • Parents or guardians have agreed with a social care team that a child or young person will be cared for away from home
  • A child or young person is being cared for away from home because of a court order
  • There is no responsible caring adult available to look after a child or young person permanently
  • A child or young person is being cared for away from home because of a court order
  • A child or young person is placed for adoption but has not yet been legally adopted by your new permanent family

How do I access the two year old funding?

  • Apply online by secure upload
  • Contact your local Sure Start children's centre
  • Contact any professional or agency working with your family (such as, health visitor, social worker, family support worker, they will complete an application form with you and submit it to us for consideration)

What else do I need to know?

  • An application form will be declined if earlier than the dates specified above
  • A placement cannot start until the term after the child turns two. For example, for a date of birth of 16 April 2011, the date funding can start if eligible is 1 September 2013
  • You do not have to buy additional hours or 'top up' sessional costs
  • You should not be charged for any part of the placement (remember to inform HM Revenue and Customs of any reduction in your nursery fees if you are in receipt of tax credits
  • You will be asked for your consent for information to be shared with other agencies, eg children's centres, primary care trust, childcare providers, speech and language team
  • On receiving your application, Starting Life Well will check the information you provide about benefits using the national free school meals database

What do I do next?

Check and apply for funding

This page was last updated on 1 August 2016

Free childcare funding for two year olds

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