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Welcome to the new Dorsetforyou. We're moving information over from our old site, so for a short time you may see information from both websites. If you spot anything that isn't working as it should please let us know. You can leave feedback at the bottom of every page. Thank you for your patience.

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Free early education and childcare for 2 year olds

Apply for 2 year old funding

Use our online form to confirm your eligibility and apply.

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 these benefits, you could get the funding if one of the circumstances in the table applies to your child.

Eligibility criteria for 2 year old funding
 You must claim one 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
  • Universal Credit and earn £15,400 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 many free hours can I get and how can I use them?

You can claim up to 15 hours of free childcare 38 weeks a year (570 hours). Some childcare providers may allow you to use your free hours over more weeks by using less hours each week.

You can use free funded hours at 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 approved childcare providers. 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.

Claim dates for 2 year old funding
 Child's birthdayWhen you can claim 
 1 January to 31 March  The beginning of term on or after 1 April
 1 April to 31 August  The beginning of term on or after 1 September
 1 September to 31 December  The beginning of term on or after 1 January

Use the free early education start date calculator  to see when your funding could start and when to apply. 

Golden tickets for 2 year old funding

We send out golden tickets to some eligible parents once their child is 2 years old. If you receive a golden ticket, take it to your chosen childcare provider to start claiming your 2 year old funding. If your golden ticket has expired, you can still receive the funding by applying online.

If you've not received a golden ticket, but think you may be eligible, apply 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 Family Information Service. Your local Children's Centre can also help you apply.
  2. Once confirmed,  search our Family Information Directory for an approved childcare provider.
  3. Once you have a place, the date you can start claiming will depend on your child's birthday (as per table). 

Start now 

More information

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. 

Make a complaint about early education funding​.

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