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Free early learning and childcare for 2-year-olds

Some 2-year-olds are eligible for up to 15 hours of free early learning and childcare a week. Find out if you're eligible and how to apply.

For families receiving some additional forms of government support

This scheme is for parents who meet any of the following criteria:

  • are getting certain benefits and if working, the household income is less than £15,400 per year
  • have children with disabilities
  • have no recourse to public funds
  • are the guardian or parent of children looked after

If you do not meet these criteria and both parents in the household are working, you could still get free hours if you meet certain criteria. Find out if you are eligible and how to apply.

Working parents who do meet the eligibility criteria on this page, should apply using the link on this page.

For information about free childcare and early education, contact the Family Information Service (FIS) on 020 7527 5959 or

How to apply

Before applying, please read the eligibility criteria and application instructions on this page.

  1. Register with the Citizen Portal. You will need to have an email address to register. This is not the same as your Islington My eAccount or My Islington account.
  2. Log in and click on ‘Free early education for 2-year-olds’ from the Citizen Portal homepage.
  3. Add details of the child you are applying for and your own details, including your National Insurance number.
  4. When making your application, you will asked to choose the type of application you want to make:
  • Choose economic application if you receive benefits, tax credits, or are on a low income.
  • Choose non-economic application if your child is looked after, adopted or has special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

If you think you fit both types of application, only complete and submit an economic application.

Start your application


If you get benefits or are on low income

Your child can get free early learning and childcare from the age of two if you live in Islington and you get one of these benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit - if you can get Universal Credit, you must have £15,400 a year after tax or less, checked on up to three of your most recent Universal Credit assessment periods
  • tax credits and you have an annual income of under £16,190 before tax
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit four-week run-on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit).

You will choose 'economic application' when you apply. 

If you are a non-UK citizen who cannot claim benefits

If your immigration status says you have ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF), 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.

If you think you may be eligible under the non-UK citizen criteria, please contact Islington FIS on 020 7527 5959.

For children with disabilities, an EHCP, looked-after or other guardianship

Your child can also get free early learning at the age of two, if they:

  • are looked after by a local council
  • have an Education, Health and Care Plan (ECHP) or assessment for an EHCP has been agreed/is underway
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or adoption order.

You will choose 'non-economic application' when you apply.

If you do not meet any of these criteria, and your child has special educational needs and disabilities, you might be able to get other support. For more information, contact Islington FIS on 020 7527 5959.

When you can start getting free hours for your child

You can start getting free hours for your child from the beginning of the term after their second birthday.

If your child's birthday is before:

  • 1 September, they can start in the autumn term
  • 1 January, they can start in the spring term
  • 1 April, can start in the summer term.

When to apply

You can check whether your child is eligible one term before you are able to start receiving free hours. For example, if your child turns two between 1 April and 31 August you can check from 1 April.

More help for families


If parents are not satisfied that their child has received their free entitlement in the right way, they should ask their provider for their complaints procedure. More information about the complaints process is in the Early Years Free of Charge complaints procedure.

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