Who's eligible for a free early education and childcare place, and what you need to do.

Some 2 year olds in England can have up to 15 hours of free early education and childcare a week.

To check if you're eligible for free education or childcare:

  1. see who is eligible for free childcare on GOV.UK
  2. ask us for an eligibility check, so we can check if your child is eligible for the free hours

You can do this in the months before your child turns 2.

You'll have a better chance of getting a place at a provider you prefer if you contact them to get your child's name on their list for a free place.

Where you can use your free hours

You can use the free childcare hours at any participating provider, including:

  • nursery schools
  • children's centres
  • preschools
  • playgroups
  • childminders
  • private nurseries
  • some primary schools

The provider must be registered with Bristol City Council to offer free places for eligible 2 year olds. You can see if they're registered on their website or call them to ask.

To get a list of registered providers near you:

Your child will not have a free place until you've done the eligibility check and it has shown you're eligible for the free hours.

Get an eligibility check

UK citizen or non-UK citizen who can claim benefits

You need to fill an online form to ask us for an eligibility check.

You'll need to give us your:

  • last name as it appears on your benefits, Universal Credit, or HMRC tax account or Home Office letters
  • date of birth
  • national insurance or National Asylum Seeker Service (NASS) number

Make sure you fill in these details correctly. We use your details to find out if your child is eligible or not. We do not use your child's details.

If you get these details wrong, we will not be able to check if your child is eligible. If this happens, we'll email you to get the right details.

In your form, tell us which provider you'd prefer.

You can also tell us if your child is already attending a provider and you've agreed with them that you'll use the free hours there.

Ask us for an eligibility check

When you can do the check and when the free hours start
Child born betweenCheck eligibility fromFree hours from
1 January and 31 March 1 January of the year they have their second birthday 1 April after their second birthday (Summer term)
1 April and 31 August 1 April of the year they have their second birthday 1 September after their second birthday (Autumn term)
1 September and 31 December 1 September of the year they have their second birthday 1 January after their second birthday (Spring term)

Non-UK citizen who cannot claim benefits

If your residence permit says “No Public Funds” or “No Recourse to Public Funds”:

The form tells you:

  • what documents you need to send us
  • the email address to send it to

What happens next

Your child is eligible

It takes up to 10 working days to process your eligibility check and find your child a place.

If your child is eligible, we'll do our best to get them a place at the provider you chose. If you've already spoken with someone at your preferred provider, this will speed things up.

If your provider has a place, we'll ask them to contact you to arrange for your child to start. You can plan directly with them about the sessions that you'd like your child to attend.

If the provider you've chosen is full, you can:

  • wait until a place becomes available, or
  • accept another provider that has spaces

If your preferred provider cannot offer you a space, we'll try to find a nearby provider with spaces. We'll ask them to contact you and offer you the free hours.

Your child is not eligible

If your child is not eligible for a place, or we need more information, we'll email you. Check your junk folder in case our message goes there.

If you think the result of our check is wrong, our email will explain how you can give us evidence your child is eligible. You will not need to reapply.

You want to move to a different provider or move house

If your child is eligible for a free place, you can keep the free place if you:

  • move house
  • want to change to a different provider

You do not have to do the eligibility check again.

If you find a new provider that can offer a free place, tell them you've been granted the funding. The provider should then contact us to confirm your child has a place.

Tell your old provider that you're leaving so they can offer the place to another child from their waiting list.