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
  • 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
  • New extended criteria from September 2019:
    • The Department for Education (DfE) has decided to extend eligibility for the free early education entitlement for the most disadvantage children to the groups of children below, where they meet the equivalent outcomes for the most disadvantaged children in England. The groups are:
      • Children with Zambrano Carers;
      • Children of families with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
      • Children of a subset of failed asylum seekers (support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 –‘the 1999Act’).

For further information please contact Starting Life Well service on 0161 778 0384 option 1


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 15 November 2019

Free childcare funding for two year olds

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