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

If you’re a non- UK citizen who cannot claim benefits and if your immigration status says you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, you may still get free childcare for your 2-year-old.

You must live in England and your household income must be no more than:

  • £26,500 for families outside of London with one child
  • £34,500 for families within London with one child
  • £30,600 for families outside of London with two or more children
  • £38,600 for families within London with two or more children

You cannot have more than £16,000 in savings or investments. If this applies to you, please use the Application for free early learning for 2 year olds - parent online form.

Information for professionals

If you are a professional making an application on behalf of a parent or carer, please complete the Application for free early learning for two year olds - professionals form.

Please ensure that you have full consent to act on their behalf and they're aware of your actions. Professionals are required to include their details in the application form.

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 Family Information Service by email fis@lambeth.gov.uk or on 020 7926 9558. 

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