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Hertfordshire County Council

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Find out if you are entitled to free childcare for your 2 year old

Am I eligible and what am I entitled to?

Your 2 year old can get 570 hours of free early education per year if one of the below applies to your household.
(That’s 15 hours a week if taken term time)

  • Universal Credit – if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • If you and your partner have a combined income of £16,190 a year and are in receipt of Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit, but not both at the same time
  • The Working Tax Credit 4 week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Income support
  • Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act.
  • Zambrano carers and those with an immigration status stating “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF) are subject to the following maximum household income criteria:
    • £26,500 for families with one child
    • £30,600 for families with two or more children
    • a maximum of £16,000 in savings or investments.

More information about Zambrano cases (GOV.UK).

Contribution based JSA/ESA is not a qualifying benefit.

Your 2 year old can also get 570 hours free early education a year if they:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have a current statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan
  • have left care through a special guardianship or an adoption or child arrangement order
  • get disability living allowance.

That's 15 hours per week if term time only.

Visit for the more details of who's eligible.

How to apply

If you think you're eligible, you need to apply online. You can start applying around your child's 2nd birthday:

If your child turns 2 between...You can apply from...

1 January – 31 March

1 January

1 April – 31 August

1 April

1 September – 31 December

1 September

You'll need:

  • your National Insurance/NASS number
  • your child's NHS number (check your red book or ask your GP)

If you're eligible, we'll send you a reference code to give to your childcare provider. Even if your circumstances change, your entitlement won’t stop.

When can I start using it?

If you make an eligible application between...You can start using your free hours from...

1 January – 31 March

1 April
(after their 2nd birthday)

1 April – 31 August

1 September
(after their 2nd birthday)

1 September – 31 December

1 January
(after their 2nd birthday)

Where can I use it?

You can use our Childcare Finder tool to find an approved childcare provider who offers free early education for 2 year olds.

If you know what type of childcare provider you want, please select one of the options below:

You can find out about the different types of childcare providers if you are not sure where to start.

After you’ve applied, you’ll receive a reference code by email if you’re eligible.  This is the code you will need to give to your childcare provider.  Let them know when you would like to start and see if they have any spaces available.

How long does it last?

Your free hours won't decrease or stop, even if your circumstances change.

Find out what your child is entitled to when they turn 3.

When you contact a provider, they should tell you up front:

  • How many free childcare places they have (in their admissions policy)
  • When you can use your free hours
  • Any additional costs
  • The price of any extra hours you want to take.

You'll need to complete a parent declaration form for each childcare provider your child attends.

If you have any questions, please contact

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