Your 2 year old child can get free 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, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit (or both), and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the Working Tax Credit 4 week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

A 2 year old child can also get free childcare if they (non-financial criteria):

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have 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

If your immigration status says you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, you may still get free childcare for your 2 year old. You must live in England and your household income must be no more than:

  • £26,500 for families outside of London with one child
  • £34,500 for families within London with one child
  • £30,600 for families outside of London with two or more children
  • £38,600 for families within London with two or more children
  • You cannot have more than £16,000 in savings or investments

Check your eligibility with our childcare team

Check your eligibility on our parent portal.

If eligible, the system will give you a code, which you can give to your chosen childcare provider to claim the free childcare.

In order to apply under the non-financial or the No Recourse To Public Funds criteria, please email childcare@walthamforest.gov.uk or call 0208 496 3566 for an application form.

Free early learning and childcare for working families

From April 2024, eligible working parents of 2-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours childcare support from the term after their child turns 2.

The expanded entitlement is available to families where:

  • both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family)
  • each parent earns on average a weekly minimum equivalent to 16 hours at the National Minimum wage or 16 hours at National Living Wage.
  • neither parent has an income of more than £100,000 per year
  • both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity leave, adoption leave or get statutory sick pay
  • one parent is employed, and one parent has substantial caring roles based on specific benefits received for caring, or is disabled/ incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits 

For more information and eligibility assessments, go to Childcare Choices.

Applying for the working parent childcare entitlements - Parent FAQ 

Start dates for free childcare places

Eligible two year olds can start receiving their entitlement the term after their second birthday. 

  • Birthdays between 1 September and 31 December, funding starts in the spring term (January)
  • Birthdays between 1 January and 31 March, funding starts in the summer term (April)
  • Birthdays between 1 April and 31 August, funding starts in the autumn term (September)

Number of hours entitled to

Eligible 2 year olds are entitled to 570 hours of free early education per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week over 38 weeks of the year (split into three terms).

However, if your child‘s provider is open all year round, such as a day nursery, the free hours will be spread equally over those weeks. For example, if your child attends a provider that is open for 51 weeks a year, they will receive 11 hours a week.

National limits

National limits are set by the government about how the free sessions can be offered meaning that:

  • no session can be longer than 10 hours
  • a maximum of 15 hours per week can be taken over a minimum of two days
  • you can use your free childcare during the weekends as well

You can discuss with the provider how your free hours can be taken. Some may offer set days and times, whereas others may be more flexible. If needed, you can purchase additional hours of childcare.

Finding a provider

A variety of providers offer free early education and childcare for two-year-olds, including:

  • day nurseries
  • pre-schools or playgroups
  • childminders
  • nursery schools

For a list of childcare providers in your area offering funded spaces, please contact Early Years & Childcare Team on 0208 496 3566 or email childcare@walthamforest.gov.uk.  

Once you have chosen your preferred childcare setting, contact them directly to arrange for your child to start.

If you would like to take up any additional hours outside the Free Early Education Entitlement, the childcare provider will invoice you accordingly.

Please note that taking up a nursery place at a school does not guarantee a reception or Year 1 place at that school. There is a completely separate admissions procedure for reception and Year 1 classes in a school.

Quality of Free Early Education providers

Free Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) providers must be:

  • registered with Ofsted/DfE
  • issued with a contract by the Local Authority to do this.

To get a contract from the Local Authority, they must demonstrate their understanding of the legal and statutory requirements they must comply with:

  • planning and building regulations,
  • health and safety(including premises statutory compliance),
  • employment law
  • safeguarding
  • finance

Providers who fail to demonstrate that they have an understanding of and comply with the requirements covered by the compliance checks, will not be commissioned by the Local Authority as providers. 

Watch these videos to find out more

Stay 2 Play: free sessions for 2 year olds

Not ready to take your child to a nursery or pre-school? Bring them to a free Stay 2 Play session at a Waltham Forest Family Hubs and join in the fun yourself. Each two hour session supports your child’s learning through playing with other children alongside their parents or carers.

A range of stimulating activities are available at the sessions allowing your child to play, paint, read, cook, climb, sing, dance, dress up, jump, run around, whatever they like doing.

If you do not have your 2 year old eligibility code or access to the internet, just come along to one of the sessions, bring your National Insurance Number or your National Asylum Support Service (NASS) number, and we'll also do the check for you on the day. You can attend the session whether you are eligible for the Free Childcare for 2 year olds or not.

See Stay 2 Play sessions on our Facebook group or go to the Family Hubs page.