Essential criteria

To be considered for two year old funding a child and their family must be in receipt of at least one of the following benefits or meet one of the other criteria listed below.

  • 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 (not including benefit payments)
  • 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
  • Two year old children in low income families are now able to take up a free place when their parent(s) have one of the following types of immigrations status:
    • Zambrano carer (derivative right to reside in the UK under European law as the primary carer of a British child or dependent adult)
    • Leave to remain with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) granted on family or private life (Article 8) grounds
    • Been refused asylum in the UK and receiving support from the Home Office under section 4 [2] of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Parents who are Zambrano carers or who have leave to remain with NRPF, must also be able to demonstrate that they have a low income.

For further information and application form, please contact the Starting Life Well service on 0161 778 0384 option 1 or email


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/young person will be cared for away from home
  • A child/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/young person permanently
  • A child/young person is being cared for away from home because of a court order
  • A child/young person is placed for adoption but has not yet been legally adopted by your new permanent family

Check and apply for funding now

This page was last updated on 29 July 2022

Free childcare funding for two year olds

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