You are now leaving the Turn2us site. Turn2us is not responsible for content on third party sites.



Help with Childcare Costs - Free Early Education and Childcare

Read our guide to the help that is available with childcare costs if you are working, studying or starting to work or study.

Free Early Education and Childcare

There are different early education schemes for each country of the UK. Click on the links below to find information related to the area of the country you live in.

England

3 and 4 year olds

All 3 and 4 year olds in England are entitled to 570 hours per year of free childcare. Most childcare providers ask families to take this as 15 hours per week over 38 week per year but you might be able to change how you take it.

You can start using your free hours in the term after your child turns 3 and it ends when your child starts school or becomes compulsory school age.

You have to use an approved childcare provider

To claim your free childcare hours, contact your local authority 

Some families can get up to 1,140 hours per year free childcare for their 3 and 4 year olds. This is usually taken as 30 hours per week. To be eligible for this, you need to meet the earnings criteria.

If you’re single:

  • You need to be earning more than 16  x national minimum wage per week (this doesn’t apply if you’re self employed and started your business less than a year ago)
  • You need to be earning less than £100,000 per year.

If you live with a partner:

  • You both need to be earning more than 16 x national minimum wage per week (if one of you is self-employed and started your business less than a year ago this won’t apply to them), or

  • One of you needs to be working and earning more than 16 x national minimum wage and the other needs to be claiming Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance

  • If either of you has an income of more than £100,000 per year you won’t be able to use the scheme.

You can apply online for your 30 hours per week of free childcare.

Foster carers can get 30 hours free childcare for the child they are caring for. However, they can’t apply online and will have to get help from social services to apply.

2 year olds

Some families can get free childcare for children from age 2 for 15 hours per week.

To qualify for free childcare for your 2 year old, you have to be receiving certain benefits or your child needs to fall into one of the special categories.

You might be eligible for 15 hours per week of free childcare for your 2 year old if you are receiving:

  • Universal Credit and your household earns less than £15,400 per year after tax
  • Guarantee Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Tax credits and your household earns less than £16,190 per year before tax
  • 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)

You might also be able to get 15 hours per week free childcare for your 2 year old if:

  • The child gets Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • The child has a statement of special educational needs or an education health and care plan 
  • The child is in local authority care
  • The child left local authority care under a special guardianship order, a child arrangements order, or an adoption order.

To apply for free childcare for your 2 year old, you should contact your local council.
 

Scotland

3 and 4 year olds

All 3 and 4 year olds living in Scotland are entitled to at least 600 hours per year of free childcare. You can only use these hours for registered childcare. Scotland is gradually increasing the number of hours available, so check with your local council to find out how many hours you can claim. 

2 year olds

Some households living in Scotland can claim free childcare for 2 year olds. You may get at least 600 hours per year of free childcare, or possibly more.

To be eligible, you have to be claiming certain benefits or your child has to fall into certain categories.

You might be able to claim free childcare for your 2 year old if you are receiving:

  • Income Support
  • income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • income based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Guarantee Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, with no award of Working Tax Credit, and your income is £16,105 or less 
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and your income is £6,841 or less
  • Universal Credit and your pay after tax is £610 per month or less.

You might also be able to claim free childcare for your 2 year old if the child:

  • Is in local authority care
  • Is living with you under a guardianship order
  • Is living with you under a kinship care order.

To apply for free childcare for your 2 year old, you will need to contact your local council.
 

Wales

3 and 4 year olds

All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to free education of 10 hours per week during school terms. This is called the Foundation Phase and is intended to help children get ready for school.

Some 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 30 hours per week of free education and childcare over 48 weeks per year. The 10 hours provided through the Foundation Phase will be a part of these 30 hours, so someone who qualifies for this scheme will get an extra 20 hours per week of free childcare.

To qualify for this the household has to meet certain earnings criteria.

If you’re single:

  • You need to be earning more than 16  x national minimum wage per week (This doesn’t apply if you’re self employed and started your business less than a year ago. It also doesn’t apply if you’re off work and getting Statutory Sick Pay, or if you’re off work on adoption or maternity/paternity leave)
  • You need to be earning less than £100,000 per year.

If you live with a partner:

  • You both need to be earning more than 16 x national minimum wage per week (if one of you is self-employed and started your business less than a year ago this won’t apply to them), or
  • One of you needs to be working and earning more than 16 x national minimum wage and the other needs to be claiming Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). or
  • One or both of you is temporarily off work on maternity/paternity or adoption leave or Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), and when you’re working you would satisfy the earnings requirements
  • If either of you has an income of more than £100,000 per year, you won’t be able to use the scheme.

2 year olds

In some areas of Wales, 2 years olds are entitled to 12.5 hours per week over 5 days per week of free education. This is based on your postcode area. It is provided through the Flying Start scheme.

For more information about the free childcare schemes available to you, contact the Family Information Service at your local council.
 

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, children aged 2 and 3 may be able to access the Pre-School Education Programme. 

This is usually given as 2.5 hours per day on 5 days per week during school terms. 

Different providers have different eligibility rules. 

For more information about the scheme, contact the Education Authority Admissions Helpdesk

Anything wrong with this page?

Tell us the problem

Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter what you were doing
Please enter what you'd like to report
Please enter the security code shown
Close

Thank you

If you would like to tell us more please visit our contact page

Close

Check benefit entitlement

Find out what means-tested benefits you might be entitled to, including tax credits.

Use the Benefits Calculator

Grant Search

Search our database of grant-giving organisations

Search for grants