Free early education entitlement

2 year old disadvantaged entitlement

2 year-olds can get free childcare if the parent/carer receives any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit (or both), and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

2-year-olds can also get free childcare if they:

  • are looked after by a local authority in England or Wales
  • have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order

The free entitlement:

  • can be taken over no more than ten hours per day, between the hours of 6am and 8pm
  • starts from the term after your child’s 2nd birthday

How to apply for entitlement

Apply online to check if you're eligible

If you’re a non-UK citizen who cannot claim benefits

If your immigration status says you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, you may still qualify for a free early education place 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.

Email if you wish to apply under the non-UK citizen criteria.

Is the two-year-old free entitlement available to all two-year-olds?

No. The free entitlement is only available to two-year-olds whose parents/carers meet the eligibility criteria.

When will my child become eligible for the free entitlement?

The table below shows when your child will become eligible:

A child born on or between

Is eligible for a free place from

1 April and 31 August

September following their second birthday

1 September and 31 December

January following their second birthday

1 January and 31 March

April following their second birthday

Where can I use my free entitlement?

The free entitlement can be used at any Southwark approved childcare provider, which can be at day nurseries, preschools or childminders, independent schools and nursery classes in primary schools

A list of Southwark approved providers is available to download:

How do I claim my free entitlement?

If you're eligible, you'll need to take a copy of your confirmation message with your reference number to the approved provider of your choice.

You should secure your free place with the provider of your choice in good time, before the start of the term you'd like your child to start.  Your childcare provider will claim the cost of your child’s free entitlement place directly from Southwark Council. No money is passed to parents/carers.

Is there a deadline for when my child can start their free place?

Yes. Your child must be registered and have started their place at your chosen provider before the termly free entitlement headcount date.  Please ask your childcare provider when this date is.

Can I lose my eligibility?

No. If your circumstances change, your child can continue to receive their two-year-old free place until the term after they turn three years old, where they will automatically become eligible for the universal 15-hour free entitlement for 3 to 4-year-olds.

Will I be charged any fees?

Providers cannot charge parents for any part of the 15-hour free entitlement, but you may have to pay for extra costs like additional childcare hours, meals, nappies or trips.  They may also charge you a refundable deposit to secure your childcare place.

Can I use more than one childcare provider?

It's possible to split your place between two providers, as long as the total number of free hours doesn't exceed the entitlement per term.  However, this option is only available if the provider can accommodate you in this way.  You'll also need to inform both providers of where you've taken up a split place.

I live in Southwark, can my child go to a provider in another borough?

Yes, if you live in Southwark but want your child to go to a provider in another borough, your chosen provider will be responsible for claiming the cost of your free place from their own local authority.  However, you should first check if they're offering the free entitlement.

Page last updated: 13 March 2024


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