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Free early education for two-year-olds

Some two-year-olds in the borough can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year.
Childcare support is changing

From 1 April 2024 support for childcare is changing for working families with a 2-year-old.

See Childcare Choices to find out if you’re eligible and apply.

It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.

The free early education and childcare:

  • must be with an approved childcare provider

  • starts from the term after your child’s second birthday. 

Who is eligible

Your two-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you live in England and get any of the following benefits: 

  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • universal credit – if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax, not including benefit payments
  • tax credits, working tax credit, or both (with an annual income of £16,190 or less before tax)
  • the guaranteed element of state pension credit
  • working tax credit four-week run-on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for working tax credit).

If you’re getting any of the above benefits, click the link below to apply for free childcare.

Extended criteria

Your two-year-old can also get free childcare if any of the following apply:

  • they are looked after by a local authority 
  • they have an education, health and care plan (EHCP)
  • they get disability living allowance
  • they have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order

To apply under the extended criteria please:


From 1 April 2024 support for childcare is changing for working families with a 2-year-old. 
See www.childcarechoices.gov.uk for eligibility criteria and application process.
To get a funded placement, you must apply for your eligibility code by 31 March 202

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 get free childcare for your two-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.

How the childcare is delivered

Providers usually deliver the 15 hours across:

  • 14 weeks in the autumn term

  • 12 weeks in the spring term

  • 12 weeks in the summer term

When your child can start

Eligible children can get the free hours in the term following their second birthday.

Find a childcare provider

See a list of Lewisham childcare providers.