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Free early education and childcare for two year olds

Check eligibility and apply for free early education for 2 year olds in Dorset.

Who can get free childcare for 2 year olds?

To get the funding your total household income must be below £16,190. You must also be claiming 1 of a list of benefits (see the table). If you do not claim any of the benefits you might still be eligible if one of a number of circumstances apply to your child, see table.

You must claim one of these benefits:If you do not claim any benefits you may be eligible if your child:
  • Income support
  • Income based Job seeker's Allowance
  • Income based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit and earn £16,190 or less per year
  • Child Tax Credit and earn £16,190 or less per year
  • The Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • is looked after by the local council
  • has left care through special guardianship, adoption or residency order
  • receives a Disability Living Allowance
  • has a statement of special educational needs
  • has an education, health and care plan

How much funding could I get and how can I use the free hours?

You can claim up to 15 hours of free childcare 38 weeks a year (570 hours). Some childcare providers may stretch your entitlement across more weeks by taking fewer hours over each week.

You can use funding to pay for more than one childcare provider. You must let them both know how many hours you are using with each.

Which provider can I use?

You can only use the free childcare with any approved childcare provider. They must have a good or outstanding Ofsted rating. This includes:

  • registered childminders, playschemes, nurseries or clubs
  • childminders with an Ofsted-registered childminding agency
  • registered schools
  • home care workers working for a registered home care agency

When can my child get the funding?

See the table for when you can claim for your child.

Child's birthdayWhen you can claim
1 January to 31 MarchThe beginning of term on or after 1 April
1 April to 31 AugustThe beginning of term on or after 1 September
1 September to 31 DecemberThe beginning of term on or after 1 January

Use the  free early education start date calculator (excel, 30kb) (opens in a new window) to see when your funding could start and when you can apply. 

Golden tickets for 2 year old funding

We send out golden tickets to some eligible parents once their child is 2 years old.

You can take your golden ticket to your chosen childcare provider and start claiming your 2 year old funding.

If you've not received a golden ticket, but think you may be eligible, please apply online.

If your golden ticket has expired, you can still receive the funding by applying online.

What happens when my child is 3 and 4?

Funding will continue as 3 and 4 year old funding is available to all families. Some working families could get up to 30 hours free childcare when their child is 3 and 4.

How to apply

  1. Confirm your eligibility by applying for a 2 year old funded place online or by calling the Early Years and Childcare Service. Your local Children's Centre can also help you apply.
  2. Once confirmed,  search our Family Information Directory for an approved childcare provider (opens in a new window).
  3. Once you have a place, the date you can start claiming will depend on your child's birthday (as per table). 

Apply for funding

Search for childcare

If you're not using childcare yet, search our Family Information Directory to find childcare. You can filter your search by those offering free early education funding.

Search for childcare

More information

Find out:

To find out about fee charging policies*, extra costs, paying for fees, deposits and retainers, speak to your childcare provider. *You need to agree to this when you register. 

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