From the term after your child turns two, you might be entitled to up to 15 hours a week of free flexible childcare for them, for 38 weeks a year. This is called free early education and it's paid for by the government.
Attending early education, for example at a nursery, playgroup or childminder, can give your child a great start in life; they'll make new friends and learn new skills, while you get the time to work, train or have some time for yourself.
Deciding on the best childcare is important for you and your child. You can choose from the following settings, depending on your child's needs and your individual circumstances.
- day nurseries, pre-school and play groups cater for 0 - 5 year olds
- childminders offer childcare in their own homes for more than two hours a day, and will look after children from birth.
- family centres provide childcare for funded two, three and four year olds
Check our Families Information Directory to find a childcare provider.
Check if you're eligible
To be eligible for free childcare, you must be claiming one of the following:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit, and have an annual income (as assessed by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC)) that does not exceed £16,190
- Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
- Universal Credit
We'll be adding a link to this page shortly to allow you to check whether you meet the criteria, but in the meantime, please contact Families Information Service (FIS) for advice.
Two-year-olds looked after by the council are also entitled to free education and childcare.
When you can claim
You can claim when your child turns two. The date you can claim depends on their birthday.
- If their birthday is between 1 January and 31 March, claim at the beginning of the term which starts on or after 1 April
- If their birthday is between 1 April and 31 August, claim at the beginning of the term which starts on or after 1 September
- If their birthday is between 1 September and 31 December, claim at the beginning of the term which starts on or after 1 January