Funded early education for 2-year-olds

Check if your 2-year-old is entitled to funded childcare in Suffolk.

Your 2 year old child may be eligible for up to 15 hours funded childcare (also known as early education, preschool education) a week at a day nursery, pre-school playgroup, or with a childminder.

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You may be eligible if you receive any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment Support Allowance
  • Support through Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • State Pension Credit (the guaranteed element)
  • Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit and earn no more than £16,190 per year
  • Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)
  • Universal Credit

Use the online checker to find out if you can get free childcare for your 2-year-old.*

*Information about using the online checker:

  1. The online checker link will take you to the 'My Early Learning' website. You can choose to create an account.
  2. You'll need your National Insurance Number.
  3. If you're eligible you'll be given a reference number from the My Early Learning website.
  4. Give the reference number to your chosen childcare provider, they will check that this is valid and let you know when your child can start their free childcare.

You may also be eligible based on the following (non-economic) criteria if your child:

  • Has left care through Special Guardianship, or through an Adoption, Residence or Child Arrangements Order
  • Is a Looked After Child (LAC)
  • Has a current statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or Education, Health and Care Plan
  • Receives Disability Living Allowance. 

Take proof to your chosen childcare provider if any of the above applies to your child

Your child can start receiving funding from the term after their second birthday. See table below:

A child who turns 2 years between: Can be considered for a place from the beginning of the:
1 January and 31 March Summer Term (April)
1 April and 31 August Autumn Term (September)
1 September and 31 December Spring Term (January)

An early start helps to build children’s social and emotional capabilities enabling children to be happily engaged with others, to learn and fully develop.

Disadvantaged children benefit significantly and the funded hours can help improve families daily routines.

Your child will receive quality early learning opportunities which will help their:

  • Intellectual development
  • All-round development
  • communication, language and literacy skills,
  • Exploration of the environment around them,
  • social/behavioural development,
  • Independence and confidence.

For more information either:

  • Speak to your current childcare provider (day nursery, pre-school playgroup or childminder). They will check you are eligible and complete an application form with you.
  • Phone the Suffolk Family Information Service (FIS) helpline on 0345 60 800 33 or text us on 07624 801060 (If you text we will call you back). Alternatively email us at childcare.planning@suffolk.gov.uk.

If you need help finding registered childcare providers in your local area:

To find childcare providers that offer funded early education places for 2-year-olds you can either contact the FIS helpline (above). Or go to our Family Services Directory website to search online for childcare providers by following these steps:

  1. Put you full postcode in the ‘location’ box field
  2. Click on the arrow from the ‘Family Service Directory’ box field to select ‘childcare’ and click ‘Search’.
  3. This will show you a list of childcare providers in your local area.

Suffolk County Council’s Early Years and Childcare Service have started issuing Golden Tickets to eligible families (via post) to let them know that they qualify for free childcare for their 2 year old, and to help make it easier for parents to apply with a childcare provider.

The non-transferable Golden Tickets include a unique reference number which parents can take to their chosen childminder, day nursery or preschool playgroup as proof that they are eligible to receive up to 15 hours free childcare per week during term time (or fewer hours per week stretched over the whole year).

The Golden Tickets must be used with a childcare provider who is registered with Ofsted and rated either “Good” or “Outstanding”. (If parents want to attend a childcare provider that is rated “Requires Improvement” they will need to apply online and do an additional eligibility check - go to www.suffolk.gov.uk/two).

The Golden Tickets should be taken to a childcare provider before the expiry date ends to apply for the free childcare. The free childcare will start from the term after your child's second birthday and it will continue up until your child starts school,(Please see tab 2 - "When will my 2 year old start to receive the free childcare" for details.) and once you have started receiving the free childcare it will continue even if your circumstances change. 

Parents may still be eligible for funded childcare for their 2 year old even if they did not receive a golden ticket in the post. You can still check if you are eligible by using our online 2 year old checker to apply at www.suffolk.gov.uk/two

Further information

Department of Education's Funded Early Education Choice Framework explaining how children aged 2, 3 and 4 can take up a funded early education place, and what information is available to parents.