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  1. 1. Overview
  2. 2. 2-year-olds (15 hours)
  3. 3. 3 and 4-year-olds (15 hours)
  4. 4. 3 to 4-year-olds (30 hours)
  5. 5. Tax-free childcare

2-year-olds (15 hours)

15 hours a week of free childcare is available to 2-year-old children when their family receives certain benefits or asylum support, if a child has additional needs, or when a child's family has no recourse to public funds. From April 2024, 15 hours a week free childcare will be available to 2-year-old children in working families.

The eligibility requirements that a parent or child must meet are set out in this section. For more details, families can refer to the government information about free early education and childcare for 2-year-olds and information about how to apply for childcareCouncils will need to refer to the Department for Education Early education and childcare statutory guidance.

Families in receipt of benefits or asylum support

A 2-year-old child will be entitled to 15 hours free childcare when the family are receiving Home Office asylum support provided under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This includes section 95 or section 98 asylum support. 

A 2-year-old child will be entitled to 15 hours free childcare when their parent is claiming one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit (the family's annual income after tax must not exceed £15,400)
  • Tax Credits (the family's annual income before tax must be under £16,190)
  • Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit four-week run on payment 

Children with additional needs

A 2-year-old child will be entitled to 15 hours free childcare if they:

  • Have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan 
  • Are receiving Disability Living Allowance 
  • Are looked after by a local authority 
  • Left local authority care as a result of an adoption order, a special guardianship order, or a child arrangements order

A child in a family with no recourse to public funds would qualify for the free hours if one of these statements applies to them. 

Families with no recourse to public funds

A 2-year-old child will be entitled to 15 hours free childcare when they meet the following requirements:

  • The parent(s) have no recourse to public funds 
  • If the parent(s) are able to work, they have a household income of no more than:
    • £26,500 for families outside of London with 1 child
    • £30,600 for families outside of London with 2 or more children
    • £34,500 for families within London with 1 child
    • £38,600 for families within London with 2 or more children

Additionally, the family cannot have more than £16,000 in savings or investments.

Free childcare for a 2-year-old can be accessed by all families with no recourse to public funds, subject to meeting the income threshold when this applies. This includes families that have leave to remain with a 'No Recourse to Public Funds' condition, families without lawful status in the UK, families receiving section 4 Home Office asylum support, and families with pre-settled status who are unable to meet benefit right to reside rules.

Councils that receive a request for 15 hours free childcare for a 2-year-old from a family with no recourse to public funds will need to refer to the Department for Education guidance on free early education for 2-year-olds from families with no recourse to public funds and application form, which a family with no recourse to public funds can be asked to complete to confirm their eligibility.

Working parents (from April 2024)

In 2024, parents who are working will be able to apply for 15 hours/week (570 hours a year) of free childcare for a 2-year-old child. This entitlement will start on different dates, depending on when the child turns 2:

  • From 1 April 2024, for a child who turns 2 between 1 January and 31 March
  • From 1 September 2024, for a child who turns 2 between 1 April and 31 August
  • From 1 January 2025, for a child who turns 2 between 1 September and 31 December

The parent (and their partner) must meet employment and income requirements, and the person applying will need to meet an immigration requirement. These requirements are the same as those that currently apply to families claiming 30 hours for 3 to 4-year-old children. For more information about these requirements, see our information about eligibility for 3 to 4-year-olds (30 hours).

For details about when and how to apply, see the government information about applying for free childcare.