Free childcare and education for 2 to 4-year-olds
All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.
Some 2-year-olds are also eligible.
When you can start claiming
The date you can start claiming depends on your child’s birthday.
|Child’s birthday||When you can claim|
|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|
The free early education and childcare must be with an approved childcare provider.
It stops once your child starts reception class in a state school.
Eligibility for 2-year-olds
Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you get one of the following:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Universal Credit
- 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)
A child can also get free early education and childcare if any of the following apply:
- they’re looked after by a local council
- they have a current statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
- they get Disability Living Allowance
- they’ve left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order
Get more information about free childcare
You can get more information about free early education and childcare from your local council.
As part of Working Tax Credit you may qualify for extra help towards the costs of certain types of childcare.
You are eligible for help with childcare costs if:
- you are a lone parent working 16 hours or more; or
- a couple who are both working 16 hours or more; or
- a couple where one partner is working 16 hours or more and the other partner is incapacitated or in hospital or in prison.
You can claim help with up to 70% of your childcare costs through tax credits, up to a maximum of £175 per week for one child and £300 per week for two or more children in childcare. Please enter the full amount you pay for childcare and let us work out the help you could receive.
This means the maximum help you can get with childcare costs through tax credits is:
- £122.50 per week (70% of £175) for one child
- £210 per week (70% of £300) for two or more children.
Help note: These are the maximum amounts payable, the actual amount you receive will depend on your weekly childcare costs, income and family circumstances.
You should enter the amount that you spend on childcare in an average week, ignoring any help you already get through tax credits. The rules for calculating average childcare costs for tax credits are complex. For more information please see how to calculate childcare costs.
You can claim for any child up to 1 September following their 15th birthday. If your child is blind or disabled, you can claim up to 1 September following their 16th birthday.
What kinds of childcare can you claim for?
Tax credits will only help with the costs of some types of registered or (in some parts of the UK) approved childcare. This includes childcare provided by:
- a registered childminder, nursery or playscheme, or
- an out of hours club on school premises run by the school or Local Authority, or
- a domiciliary worker or nurse from a registered agency who cares for the child or children in your own home.
Other types of registered and approved childcare can also count. Your childminder or childcare provider should be able to tell you whether or not they are approved or registered.
You cannot claim for the costs of childcare in your home if the childcare provider is a relative of the child, even if that relative is a registered childcare provider.
What NOT to include in your childcare costs
You cannot claim for the cost of childcare that is paid for by your employer or by someone else. Don’t include costs covered by any of the following:
- Childcare vouchers in return for a reduction in your pay this is called a salary sacrifice
- Childcare payments or grants from the Government, for example to help you start work
- Childcare costs met by your educational or local authority for your child’s nursery childcare https://www.gov.uk/free-early-education
Help note: If you qualify for tax credits then you will generally be better off claiming help through tax credits and not taking childcare vouchers. If you are already getting vouchers, or have the option to do so, please see getting the most help with childcare.
If you are unsure whether you can claim for your childcare arrangements or how to calculate your childcare costs, you can get more information from HM Revenue and Customs’ guide to tax credits and childcare.
We accept payment of fees by way of Childcare Vouchers, for information about eligibility and guidelines go to www.hmrc.gov.uk