Free Childcare for 2 year olds

The Importance of Early Years Education

The Government wants every child to get the best start in life and believe that maximising a child’s development at an early age is essential in improving educational standards in later life. In Halton all eligible two year olds will have access to their fifteen hours a week of Two Year Old Free Entitlement through a range of high quality early years providers, which include pre-schools, day nurseries and some eligible childminders.

All providers who offer the entitlement work towards the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, which was introduced in September 2008 to ensure schools and early years providers follow a structure of care, learning and development for children from birth to five years old.

The EYFS sets the standard of care, learning and development that young children should experience when they are attending a setting outside their family home.

Below are some frequently asked questions about the Two Year old Free Entitlement:

What is Two Year Old Free Entitlement?

Eligible two year olds are entitled to a free part time early learning and care place.

Who is eligible for two year old free entitlement?

A two year old is eligible if they are:

  • ‘Looked After’ (LAC) by their Local Authority: ‘Children who are provided with accommodation by a Local Authority for more than 24 hours on a voluntary basis or who are under a Care Order. The child may be living with foster carers, in a residential home or with parents or other relatives. A child who is ‘looked after’ is defined in Section 22 of the Children Act 1989’.
    • A child who has left care through special guardianship or through adoption.
    • A child who receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

A two year old child whose family receives one of the following are also eligible:

  • Income support
  • Income based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - £15,400 household income (does not included any benefit received)
  • Support through Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • The Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for WorkingTax Credit)
  • A child who is on receipt of a qualifying benefit in their own right
  • An annual income not exceeding £16,190.​

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

Your 2-year-old may get free childcare if you are getting support under the Immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as ‘part 6’)
  • been refused asylum in the UK (known as ‘section 4’)

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and you have either:

If you would like to apply for the 2 year old funding please fill in

Please include your National Insurance Number and your own date of birth, as this information is needed to check your eligibility. For more information please download our free childcare for 2 year old criteria or contact us.


When can my child access the two year old free entitlement?

The term starting after your child’s second birthday. Term dates are:

  • 1st January – 31st March (Spring term)
  • 1st April – 31st August (Summer term)
  • 1st September – 31st December (Autumn term)

So for example if your child’s date of birth was July 2018 your child can start to access their two year old free entitlement from September 2020.

What is a free place?

The funding entitles eligible two year olds to a maximum of 15 hours per week, over no less than 38 weeks a year (570 hours in total).

Which early years providers offer the two year old free entitlement?

In Halton all day nurseries and preschools and eligible childminders are registered to receive the two year old funding. The Department for Education require funded 2 year olds to attend high quality settings, therefore only those with Good or above Ofsted grading can participate. However, settings with a requires improvement grading can be used at the discretion of the Local Authority, where additional spaces are required to fund eligible children. One Halton Steering Group​​ agreed that Childminders must have a Good in their most recent Ofsted Inspection to be funded.

Can I use the 15 hours over 2 days?

Yes. The minimum you can use is 2.5 hours per day and the maximum is 10 hours in any one day. It is not to be used before 7am or after 7pm.

What should I do to receive a free place?

A two year old referral form needs to be completed and sent to the Early Years officer - ​2 year funded programme. You must include your National Insurance Number, your date of birth and your legal surname on the referral form to ensure eligibility can be checked. Once eligibility has been checked the parent will be contacted to discuss setting preference.

Can my child go to more than one childcare provider?

Yes, although you can only split the entitlement between a maximum of two providers (unless there are exceptional circumstances).

How can I be sure that the childcare provider is offering good quality early education?

All registered providers are inspected by Ofsted (however all parents should satisfy themselves as to quality, nature and details of the childcare provision). You can view individual Ofsted reports by visiting the Ofsted website at:

All registered providers follow the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum.

All providers have appropriately qualified staff (at least 50% of the s taff must be qualified). All staff have had a Disclosure and Barring Service check carried out on them (previously known as Criminal Records Bureau check). All staff have access to regular high quality training.

All providers adhere to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.

For further information please contact us: