From the term after your child turns two, you might be able to claim 15 hours a week free childcare (up to a maximum of 570 hours per year). This is called Free Early Education and it is paid for by the Government.
Attending early education at a nursery, playgroup or childminder, can help your child:
Before you can claim a free place you will need to submit an application for us to check if you are eligible. We will send you an email or letter to tell you if you are eligible for a free place or not.
If you are eligible you can then find a childcare provider and book the free place with them. You will need to show your chosen childcare provider the email or letter that we send you so that they know you are eligible for a free place. You will not be able to take up a free place until you have done this.
Your child is eligible from the term following their 2nd birthday. The table below shows when you can access a place and when to apply so your child can start as soon as he or she is eligible.
If you do not apply for an eligibility check by the date listed below, you will not be able to access your free place until the start of the next term.
|Childs birthday||When you can access a place||When you can apply from||When you must apply by|
|1 April – 31 August||1 September (autumn term)||1 June||31 August*|
|1 September – 31 December||1 January (spring term)||1 October||31 December|
|1 Jan – 31 March||1 April (summer term)||1 January||31 March|
If you apply before the dates specified above you will not receive a response and it is your responsibility to re-apply when your child's date of birth is within the specified timescales.
If you would like any further information contact our Family Information Service.
* For the current term only, (1 September 2017 – 31 December 2017) you can access your free place even if you missed the 31 August deadline. When you have confirmation of your eligibility, get in touch with your chosen childcare provider. Remember to take your letter or email confirming your eligibility with you when you book a place.
If you are getting certain benefits (detailed below) you can submit your application online by clicking on the Online Eligibility Checker below. You will need to create an account first, then you need to log back in to your account to complete your application. Once your account has been created you can log in at any time and you do not need to create a new account if you have any other children that become age eligible, but, you must check each child in case your circumstances have changed.
You can only do this eight weeks before you can start claiming. Please see when to submit your application for more information.
Apply using the links above if you get one of the following benefits:
If you do not have access to the internet you can also call our Family Information Service on 0300 123 6712
If you are not getting one of the benefits listed above you might still be able to claim a free childcare place. The other ways children could be eligible are:
If your child meets any of the other criteria listed above, please contact your social worker, health visitor, Children's Centre or Portage worker and they will be able to complete a referral on your behalf. Once we get the referral we will send you an email or letter to confirm your child can claim a free childcare place.
Alternatively, if your child has left care under a special guardianship order, child arrangements order, adoption order or is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance you can send a copy of the order or DLA award letter by post to;
Lancashire County Council
or by email to; FEE234@lancashire.gov.uk
Please do not send originals as we are unable to return them to you.
You can use our childcare search to look for childcare providers who offer this service. We recommend you choose a childcare provider graded 'Good' or 'Outstanding' by Ofsted.
Please remember to take your letter or email confirming your eligibility with you when you book a place with your chosen childcare provider.
Check the information and guidance on accessing a two year old place for more details of the childcare providers you can use, restrictions around hours, and what to expect.
Take a look at our flowchart (PDF 416KB) that shows you the ways you could be eligible and how to check if you are.