Free early education and childcare

The information on this page relates to the current early education entitlements for 2 year olds. From April 2024, the early education entitlement will be expanded for working families of younger children so they can access 15 hours per week, increasing to 30 hours per week by September 2025. Further information about the new entitlements for younger children in working families.

Free childcare

Free childcare for two year olds

Your 2-year-old may be eligible for free childcare at nurseries, pre-schools or childminders. 

Check your eligibility - low-income families Check your eligibility - working families

Read our FEEE data protection statement (PDF, 127KB). You can also find out more information about data protection in Cheshire East and the public sector guarantee on data handling.

Your 2-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you live in England and get one 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 £15,400 or less a year, after tax
  • tax credits and you have an income of £16,190 or less a year, 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)

2-year-olds can also get free childcare if they:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have a statement of special education needs (SEN) or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order

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:

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 any of the following:

  • leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ on family or private life grounds
  • support from the council because you have ‘a child in need’, for example they have a disability or a child protection plan
  • the right to live in the UK because you’re the main carer of a British citizen (known as a ‘Zambrano Carer’)

If you’re eligible the free early education and childcare:

  • must be with an approved childcare provider 
  • starts from the term after your child’s 2nd birthday (see below for the relevant dates for commencing)

Contact: the Family Information Service to find out if you qualify for any of the above reasons.

Relevant dates for commencing

  • Children born in the period 1 January to 31 March: the start of term beginning on or following 1 April after the child’s second birthday
  • Children born in the period 1 April to 31 August: the start of term beginning on or following 1 September after the child’s second birthday
  • Children born in the period 1 September to 31 December: the start of term beginning on or following 1 January after the child’s second birthday.

How many hours you are entitled to

There are up to 15 hours per week of free childcare in term time only (38 weeks of the year) or up to 11 hours per week if taken over the whole year. This will depend on your preferred childcare providers' opening times and availability.

Free childcare providers

The funded child care for two year olds can only be taken with childcare providers who are on Cheshire East's approved list.

You have some choice about how and where you take your free childcare place, but this depends on who has vacancies.

How to arrange free childcare

After you have successfully completed your eligibility check Cheshire East Family Information Service will send you a confirmation letter. The letter will have a unique reference code and a list of approved providers in a 2 mile radius of your postcode.

To take a place not on your list contact list but within elsewhere in Cheshire East contact the Family Information Service who will provide a list of additional providers.

When your child has a place and you are happy with the placement your child will remain with that childcare provider. They will automatically be transferred over to the funding for three and four year olds, even if your circumstances change, for example you return to work.

2 year old free childcare leaflets

Page last reviewed: 17 April 2024

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