Free entitlement to early education for two-year-olds

Free entitlement to early education for two-year-olds

Some two-year-olds in the borough can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.


Your two-year-old can get free early education and childcare if you get one of the following:

  • income support
  • income-based: jobseeker's allowance (Not eligible if on contribution based jobseeker’s allowance)
  • income-related: employment and support allowance (Not eligible if on contribution based employment support allowance)
  • support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guaranteed element of state pension credit
  • child tax credit

And if the combined annual household income is below £16,190. Please note if your income is below £16,190 and you are not on any benefits your family will not be eligible.

Your child can also get free early education and childcare under extended criteria if any of the following apply:

  • they are looked after by the local authority 
  • your child has a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan (EHCP)
  • your child is receiving disability living allowance
  • your child has been adopted
  • the child has left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order or residence order.

How do I apply?

You can apply for your free early education and childcare entitlement for your two-year-old below.

To apply under the extended criteria please complete the extended criteria application form attached below.

For extended criteria print form below, complete and email to

How is the childcare delivered?

The 15 hours are delivered by providers across:

  • 14 weeks in the autumn term
  • 12 weeks in the spring term
  • 12 weeks in the summer term.

When can my child start?

  • Eligible children can get the free hours in the term following their second birthday.
  • If your child was born between 1 April 2014–31 March 2015 and you would like your child to start in September 2017 (autumn term) please apply by 5 October 2017.
Second birthday between Eligible from
1 April–31 August Autumn term starting in September
1 September–31 December Spring term starting in January
1 January–31 March Summer term starting in April

Where can I find a children's centre, pre-school or nursery in Lewisham?

If you want to find your nearest children’s centre, a list of Lewisham children’s centres is available. Below, you can also download a list of childcare providers in the borough.