Apply this month for free childcare hours for two-year-olds

3 mins read

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Tags: childcare, early years, free childcare for working families

Parents in England eligible for 15 free childcare hours for their two-year-olds from 1 April 2024 are advised to apply before 28 February to ensure they get the offer in time.

The recommended application window runs from 15 January to 28 February 2024. You can apply outside of these recommended dates, but you might not receive your code in time. You must have a valid code by the end of the month before a new term starts.

Note: Disabled two-year-olds may already be eligible for or receiving 15 hours’ free childcare – see more below.

What is the new free childcare offer?

In March 2023, the government announced plans to expand the existing 30 hours’ free childcare offer for working families of three- and four-year-olds, for 38 weeks a year, to working parents of children aged between nine months and three years.

This will roll out in phases:

  • From April 2024, working parents of two-year-olds will be eligible for 15 hours of free childcare.
  • From September 2024, this will extend to working parents of children aged between nine months and two years.
  • From September 2025, working parents of children aged between nine months to three years will be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare a week.

Who is eligible?

Eligibility will match the existing 30 hours offer for working families of three- and four-year-olds.

There are income-based requirements to meet, with exceptions around disability and caring responsibilities. We have information on our paying for childcare website.

How do I apply?

Apply for the scheme via the website, where you’ll also find details of existing government schemes.

You can also find out more from Childcare Choices.

What if my family isn’t working?

Free childcare for all three- and four-year-olds

In England, all three and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education/childcare for 38 weeks of the year, regardless of their parents’ work and income.

Free childcare for disabled two-year-olds and those in low-income households

Some two-year-olds in non-working households are also eligible for 15 hours’ free childcare. This includes any two-year-old receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or who has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

A two-year-old also qualifies if their parents are in receipt of certain means-tested benefits, or not eligible for benefits due to their immigration status, but with limited income and savings.

I live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. What help is there for me?

We have information on the childcare schemes available for the devolved governments on our Paying for childcare page.