Free early learning for under fives

Use this guide to find information about free early learning for under fives.

Free early learning for two-year-olds

Your two-year-old can get 15 hours of free early education and childcare a week if you get one of the following:

  • Income Support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
  • Universal Credit (with an annual net income of no more than £15,400 if your child was born on or after 1 January 2016).
  • 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 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit).

Apply for free early learning for two-year-olds

Additional eligibility criteria

A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:

  • They’re looked after or in care.
  • They have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan.
  • They’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order, or adoption order.
  • They get a Disability Living Allowance.

Non-EEA citizens who cannot claim benefits

Your 2-year-old may get free childcare if you're getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as part 6)
  • been refused asylum in the UK (known as section 4)

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax and you have any of the following:

  • leave to remain with no recourse to public funds on family or private life grounds 
  • support from your local council because you have a child in need - for example they have a disability or a child protection plan
  • the right to live in the UK because you’re the main carer of a British citizen (known as a Zambrano Carer)

If any of the additional criteria above apply to you or your child, you should not apply via the Lambeth parent portal. Instead, contact the Families Information Service at fis@lambeth.gov.uk as we will be able to confirm your eligibility for free childcare.

When can my child have a place?

A child born between Can have a place from
1 January to 31 March The beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 August The beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 December The beginning of term on or after 1 January

How do I choose a childcare provider?

The free place can be offered by any nursery or childminder judged outstanding or good by Ofsted, or those who are newly registered and have not been Ofsted-inspected as yet.

There are no other costs but you will need to provide wipes, nappies and a change of clothes, and you can provide your child with a packed lunch if you do not wish to purchase a meal from your childcare provider.

You may find it helpful to visit some providers to help you decide where is best for your child. Recommendations from other parents can be helpful, but remember that each child is different, and what suits someone else's child may not be right for yours.

Visit the Family and Childcare Trust website for their handy page on five steps to choosing childcare.

All registered childcare providers are inspected every few years by Ofsted, who assess how well they are doing. You can see all the reports on the Ofsted website or you can ask the provider to show you their most recent report.

We cannot guarantee that your chosen provider will have spaces available, or can provide the hours that you need, but you should find something to suit you within your local area.

If you need any support to identify the most suitable place for your child, contact your local children's centre or call the Family Information Service on 020 7926 9558.

Watch the video below for more about free early learning for two-year-olds in Lambeth.