From the term after your child turns two, you might be entitled to free flexible childcare for them. This is called free early education and it's paid for by the government.
If your child is eligible, you can talk to your childcare provider about getting up to 15 hours a week of free child care during term time. Or you can ask for a 'stretched offer' - this means you get less hours during the week, stretching your hours to cover holiday periods.
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 Family Service Directory to find a childcare provider.
How to claim
Check whether you're eligible and apply on the Family Service Directory.
If eligible, you will get an instant response and be able to download a confirmation ticket to pass to your childcare provider so that they can arrange the funding.
If you find you aren't eligible, you will get the option to refer your application. Your application will then be passed to the Families Information Service who will contact you to discuss your situation.
Two year olds who:
- get Disability Living Allowance
- are looked after by a local council
- have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education health and care plan
- have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
automatically qualify for a free place, which can be arranged by ringing the Families Information Service on 0800 0345 340.