Skip to content
  1. Do it online
  2. Login
  3. Have your say
  4. My Durham

Please note that our online payments system will be unavailable on Sunday 10 July between 9.00am and 11.00am. We apologise for the inconvenience.

Free childcare sessions for two year olds


Some two year olds are entitled to free childcare up until the school term after their third 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).

Is your child eligible?

You can apply for a place via the Parent Portal 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 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

Your child will also qualify if they:

  • are looked after by the council
  • have a current statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • they get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order 

If your child meets the above criteria, you can still apply via the Parent Portal but in addition you will need to contact us to send evidence (eg DLA letter).

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

Your 2-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

Register and log in to the Parent Portal to check if you are eligible (Please note you will need your national insurance number or National Asylum Support Service (NASS) to complete the check).

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

January - March (You can apply from January)

April

April - August (you can apply from April)

September

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 2-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 isn't included

Certain items may not be included, for example:

  • meals
  • nappies
  • sun cream
  • additional hours
  • additional activities (such as trips).

Childcare providers may charge a fee for these. If you choose to pay for these it is an arrangement between you and the childcare provider.

However, you must not be required to pay any fee as a condition of taking up a 15 hours place, and must be offered alternative options (for example, providing your own food or nappies).

Contact us
Childcare places
03000 268 913
Our address is:
  • Childcare Places
  • Durham County Council
  • County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UJ