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Funded childcare sessions for two year olds (Play and Learn)

Some two year olds are entitled to funded childcare from the term after their second birthday at 'Play and Learn' sessions. This could be at a nursery, playgroup or with a childminder.

If you qualify, your child could receive 15 hours a week (term time only), or 11 hours a week (50 weeks a year).

From April 2024 working families may be eligible to 15 hours of funded childcare a week. Visit Childcare Choices for more information. If you are eligible for help with childcare costs through Universal Credit, this can be used alongside the 15 hours, to pay for additional childcare. The 15 hours childcare is 100% funded, Universal Credit will only pay you up to 85% of the cost.

Is your child eligible?

You can apply for a place if you receive one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - if you and your partner have a combined income from work of less than £15,400 a year after tax
  • Tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Support through part six of the Immigration and Asylum Act
  • The Working Tax Credit four week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

Your child will also qualify if they:

If your child meets the above criteria, you can still apply but you will need to Contact Childcare places to send evidence (eg DLA letter).

If you do not meet the above criteria and are a working family, you may be eligible to 15 hours a week from April 2024. Visit Childcare Choices for more information.

If you're a non-European Economic Area (EEA) citizen who cannot claim benefits

Your two year old may get free childcare if you are getting support under the immigration and Asylum Act and have either:

  • claimed asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision (known as 'part 6')
  • been refused asylum in the UK (known as 'section 4')

A 2-year-old you care for may also get free childcare if your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, and you have any of the following:

  • leave to remain with 'no recourse to public funds' on family or private life grounds
  • support from your local council because you have 'a child in need', for example they have a disability or a child protection plan
  • the right to live in the UK because you're the main carer of a British citizen (known as a 'Zambrano Carer)

Please contact us for further information.

Get started

  1. Read  How to apply for a 2 year old Play and Learn place (PDF) [517KB] .
  2. Register and log in to Funded 2 year old Play and Learn application to check if you are eligible. You will need your national insurance number or National Asylum Support Service (NASS) to complete the check.
  3. If you are eligible, you will receive an eligibility code. You will need to take this code to your chosen nursery or childminder.

You can apply from the term your child turns two:

Child's 2nd birthday

Your child's place will begin

September - December (You can apply from September)


January - March (You can apply from January)


April - August (you can apply from April)


Who provides Play and Learn sessions

Visit the Families Information Service to search for childminders or nurseries in your area. Contact them directly to find out if they provide these sessions.

What happens if my circumstances change

Once your child has started in a two year old place they will be able to continue attending even if your circumstances change, for example if you start working or start earning more.

What you can and cannot be charged for when using funded childcare

The DfE state that all parents who are eligible should be able to access a funded childcare place, which must be delivered completely free of charge. This is set out in paragraph A1.30 of the current statutory guidance and A1.33 of the updated statutory guidance applicable from 1 April 2024.

What is allowed - consumables and additions:

  • Government funding is intended to deliver 15 or 30 hours a week of free, high quality, flexible childcare. It is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables, additional hours or additional services. Providers can charge for meals and snacks as part of a free entitlement place and they can also charge for consumables, such as nappies or sun cream, and for additional services such as trips and specialist tuition. (Paragraph A1.30 of the statutory guidance).
  • If a parent is unable to pay for consumables, or if a parent wishes to provide their own, then the parent and provider can discuss alternative options. This could include allowing parents to supply their own meals or nappies, or waiving or reducing the cost of meals and snacks.
  • Charges for consumables or additional services should not be made a condition of accessing a free place. (As set out in paragraph A1.33 of the guidance.)

What is not allowed:

  • Councils should ensure that providers do not charge parents "top-up" fees (any difference between a provider's normal charge to parents and the funding they receive from the council to deliver free places).
  • Core costs of running a business that delivers government-funded childcare are not consumables used by the child or additional services provided to the child. These include, but are not limited to, insurance, Ofsted registration, maintenance, business rates, training costs, rent and energy bills. These are core costs of running a business and parents should not be charged.

Please discuss any additional charges with your childcare provider. If you have concerns about your provider's charges, or for further information,  please Contact Early years funding.

If you are working and pay tax, you may be able to use Tax-Free Childcare to help you pay for any additional charges.

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