Parents of very young children may have heard of free childcare funding for 2 year olds. However, exactly how many funded hours are available for 2 year olds? How does it work? How do you apply for the funding and what exactly is on offer? Also, is the funding still available during the Coronavirus outbreak? This article is here to explain virtually everything you need to know about free/funded hours for childcare, specifically for 2 year olds. Take a few moments and we’ll cover the key points for you.
We’ll limit this article to the rules for only UK residents who require childcare for 2 year olds in England, seeing as that’s where our customer base and nursery are located. (We are a nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, near Birmingham). We’ll cover funding rules for 3 and 4 year old children in a separate article in due course.
Free early years education or childcare funding for 2 year olds
Firstly, it’s important to know that the number of free/funded hours available for early years childcare largely depends on the age of the child concerned. In a nutshell, 2 year olds may be eligible for up to up to 15 hours of free childcare/early education per week. Eligibility depends on a variety of additional factors, as we’ll see.
Eligible children aged two years of age are entitled to up to 570 hours of free childcare or early education per year. This is usually taken as 15 hours per week spread over 38 weeks of the year. However, exactly how it’s taken can be flexible in reality. In order to be eligible, the child must fall into a qualifying category of ‘additional needs’. Alternatively, the parent(s) must be in receipt of a qualifying benefit.
Those who receive the following benefits may be eligible: income-related JSA (Jobseeker’s Allowance); income-related ESA (Employment & Support Allowance); Income Support; Universal Credit (for low parent/partner income e.g. if it’s less than £15,400 per annum after tax); Tax Credits (for low family income e.g. if it’s less than £16,190 before tax); State Pension Credit (the guaranteed part); Working Tax Credit ‘4 week run-on‘ payments that are received after eligibility for Working Tax Credit has ceased; and finally support via ‘Part 6’ of the Immigration & Asylum Act. (That’s typically where a parent is claiming asylum but has not yet received a decision).
What if you later stop receiving benefits?
What happens if your 2 year old is already receiving 15 hours of free childcare/early education but you later stop being eligible to receive the relevant benefits above? Your child will usually continue to receive free childcare, despite the change in your circumstances.
Other categories for eligibility
Those who don’t qualify for the benefits above may still qualify if: the child is being looked after by the council; they’re in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (‘DLA’); they have a statement of Special Education Needs (‘SEN’); they have an Education, Health & Care Plan (‘EHC’); or they are no longer in living in care, having left under a Child Arrangements or Adoption Order or Special Guardianship Order.
When can you apply for free childcare funding for 2 year olds?
You can apply for free childcare/early education for your 2 year old during the term in which they first reach the age of 2. However, your child will need to wait until the start of the following term before they can actually attend. In practice, therefore, this usually means that your 2 year old can start attending from 1st of January/April/September following their 2nd birthday.
Who receives the actual funds?
The Government funding for 2 year olds goes directly from the local council to the setting, not to the parent or child. You will need to sign a form, which is usually supplied by the childcare provider.
The Government’s childcare/early years funding does not cover additional items like meals, nappies and suchlike. So, it’s important to check whether this is included at your nursery or early years education setting.
Can those on NRPF visas receive childcare funding?
Some parents or primary carers may fall into category where, on the face of it, they are not eligible for any of the benefits above. One common example is when they are subject to immigration control. Here, they may be claiming asylum but have not yet received a decision. However, if they are on what’s known as an NRPF visa (a ‘no recourse to public funds’ visa), they may still be eligible for funding for 2 year olds in certain cases.
How do you apply for 2 year old childcare funding?
It would be wise to contact Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery to discuss your potential application in the first instance. Funding will come from the Government, but will be filtered down via your local council. You can make your application via HM Government’s ‘Childcare Choices’ portal.
Is funding for 2 year olds impacted by Coronavirus/COVID-19?
Encouragingly, the Government has announced that free funding for 2 year olds will continue to be available despite nursery closures (from Friday 20th March for most*) caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. (More info). Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, said,
“… we will continue to pay for all free early years entitlements places, even in the event that settings are closed on the advice of Public Health England, or children are not able to attend due to coronavirus“.
*Schools, colleges and nurseries (including Leaps & Bounds) will close from Friday 20th, until otherwise directed by the Government. That’s except for children of key workers, such as NHS staff and emergency workers, and vulnerable children. (More info). We’ll publish more details on this topic in the next few hours.
Contact us for further information
To discuss any of the above with the staff at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, please call 0121 246 4922 or .