Children and families

Free childcare for ages 2 and under

From April 2024, free childcare is being expanded for working families of younger children so they can access 15 hours per week, increasing to 30 hours per week by September 2025.

Eligible working parents of three and four-year-olds already get 30 hours a week of free childcare. This expanded offer for younger children will be rolled out in stages as follows:

  • From April 2024 - working parents of two-year olds can access 15 hours of free childcare.
  • From September 2024 – working parents of children aged 9 to 23 months can access 15 hours of free childcare.
  • From September 2025 – working parents of children aged nine months upwards can access 30 hours of free childcare per week, right up to their child starting school.

Depending on your provider, these hours can be used over 38 weeks during term time, or up to 52 weeks if you use fewer than your total hours per week.

The funding is not intended to cover the costs of meals, nappies or additional activities, such as trips. Providers may charge a fee for these additions.

Eligible working parents

You or your partner must work at least 16 hours per week and not earn more than £100,000 to be eligible for this expanded funding. You will be able to check full eligibility criteria on the Childcare Choices website, when the application process opens.

When can I apply?

Children are entitled to the funded hours from the term after the age they become eligible:

  • Children born between 1 January and 31 March become eligible from 1 April
  • Children born between 1 April and 31 August become eligible from 1 September
  • Children born between 1 September and 31 December become eligible from 1 January

Remember, the expanded offer is being rolled out in phases, with working parents of 2-year-olds eligible to apply first. This means your child will need to have reached their second birthday on or before 31 March 2024 and you must apply by 31st March to access the free childcare from 1st April. 

How to apply?

Applications for phase 1, working parents of 2-year-olds, will open from 2nd January 2024 on the Childcare Choices website.

The online application process will tell you the full eligibility criteria and what you need to provide when you apply.

You should find out if you’re eligible straight away, but it can take up to 7 days.

What happens next?

If approved, a childcare account will be set up and you’ll get a code to give to your childcare provider to access the funding.

Because the first phase applies from 1st April 2024, parents that apply from 2nd January will need to reconfirm eligibility before you have had a chance to use the code.

Every 3 months you must reconfirm your eligibility, via your childcare account, to keep your code valid.

Further details will be available on the Childcare Choices website.