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Funded childcare for two-year-olds

Passport for 2s

Is your 2 year old entitled to funded early education
Some children who are two years of age can access up to 15 hours of funded early education and childcare a week, for 38 weeks of the year, depending on their individual family circumstances.

The 'Passport for 2s' scheme has been introduced to make it easier for those who are entitled to access up to 15 hours of funded early education for their two-year-old.

If you are eligible, you could claim a placement with a school pre-school, a private nursery or pre-school or with a registered childminder. You can find a list of the eligibility criteria.

How it works

If you are entitled to up to 15 hours' funded early education, we will send you a passport letter which can then simply be handed in to a provider of your choice and swapped for up to 15 hours' funded early education. You will also need to provide a copy of your child's birth certificate.

To check if you are entitled, you can fill in an application form online, or contact us on 01744 676541.


How can I check if I'm entitled to a passport?

Your two-year-old can get funded early education or childcare if you live in England and get one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • tax credits, and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • the guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • the Working Tax Credit four-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

Two-year-olds can also get free childcare if they:

  • are looked after by a local authority
  • have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • get Disability Living Allowance
  • have left care under an adoption order, special guardianship order or a child arrangements order

You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.

If you're a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits - click here, you may still be able to apply


What if I'm a non-EEA citizen who cannot claim benefits?

If your immigration status says you have 'no recourse to public funds' (NRPF) you may still be eligible for a funded 2-year-old place. You must live in England and your household income must be no more than:

  • £26,500 for families living outside of London with one child
  • £30,600 for families living outside of London with two or more children
  • £16,000 in savings or investments.

If you have no recourse to public funds and your household income and savings are both less than the limits specified above, and you fall under any of the criteria below please apply using the application form. Please provide evidence of your income and immigration status and return by email to 


How to apply

If you think you are eligible, you can complete our  online application form

If you need further help or advice before you apply contact our Funded Early Education Entitlement team:

Telephone: 01744 676541 / 676542 or 676557 


Passport for under 2s applications must be submitted and given to your chosen provider before Thursday 16th May 2024, which is the deadline for the summer term placements.


After applying, if you are entitled to funding, we will send you out a 'Passport for 2s'  in the post or via email - like the one pictured opposite.

This passport can then simply be handed in to a provider of your choice and swapped for up to 15 hours' funded early education. You will also need to provide a copy of your child's birth certificate.


Where's my passport?

If you haven't received a passport, and you feel you should be entitled to a funded placement, please call us on either 01744 676541 / 676542 or 676557.

Please call us before Thursday 16th May 2024, so we can help and check if you are eligible to claim - we don't want you to miss out on your child's early education entitlement. 

When can I claim?

If you're eligible, you can start claiming funded early education after your child turns two.


Apply in the period below when your child turns two:

Child will be eligible for a funded place from the start of:
1 April to 31 August1 September (Autumn term)
1 September to 31 December1 January (Spring term)
1 January to 31 March1 April (Summer term)

How do I choose a provider?

We have a directory of school pre-schools, private nurseries and pre-schools and registered childminders in St Helens that are registered to deliver the two-year-old free early education places.

You can download the directory (PDF) [140KB] (opens new window) .

What to look for when choosing a childcare provider and some questions to ask

Opening times and availability

  • What are the opening times?
  • How many weeks of the year are they open?
  • Are they closed at any specific times of the year?
  • Do they offer any flexible care (i.e. weekends, evenings, emergencies)?
  • Is there a waiting list, if so, how long would you have to wait for a place?

The environment

  • Is there outside space available for play and learning?
  • Are there separate areas for different kinds of play - water play, sand, messy play, role-play?
  •  Is there a separate area for quiet time - story time, puzzles, sleeping?
  • How many children will be in your child's room / class?
  • Is the setting safe and secure?
  •  Does it look clean and cheerful? - Look for examples of other children's work on display

Your child's development

  • What is the normal staff to child ratio?
  •  Are the children well supervised?
  • What qualifications do staff hold?
  • Will your child have a Key Worker? If yes, when can you meet them?
  • Who will be responsible for monitoring your child's development?
  • Will you get regular feedback?
  • Will you get a daily record of what your child has done / eaten?
  • What learning and developmental activities will your child take part in?


  • Does your setting make any additional charges surrounding the two-year-old offer?
  • Can I bring my own packed lunch and nappies, creams, etc to avoid the extra cost?
  • Are there additional charges for my child to take part in trips?
  • Does my child need to attend a minimum number of sessions per week?

Disabilities and SEN

  • What experience do the staff have of caring for children with disabilities and SEN?
  • How would they adapt activities for your child?
  • Is the building fully accessible?
  • When can you meet your child's Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)?

Policies and procedures

If you want more information, ask to see their policies on:

  • Sending children home because of sickness and other conditions
  • Charging for wraparound care, lunch, snacks and consumables
  • Giving medication / dealing with allergies
  • Toilet training
  • People other than the main carer picking up the child
  • Late collection and non-attendance
  • Safeguarding
  • Photography
  • Sun care
  • Complaints
  • Managing children's emotional wellbeing
  • Bullying

Government funding is intended to cover the cost to deliver 15 hours a week of, high quality, flexible early education, it is not intended to cover the cost of meals, consumables, additional hours or additional services.

You may be asked to pay for meals, snacks and consumables if your child is accessing hours whereby meals are included.

It is important that you secure the hours that are right for you and your child; some childcare providers will just offer the funded hours with no additional charges so please ask the relevant questions before you sign up for a place.

What happens when my child actually starts?

When your child starts with a nursery, pre-school or childminder they will carry out an initial assessment with you and your child so that they can understand and identify your child's strengths, interests and next steps.

This is important, as it gives the childcare setting a starting point from which they can plan and tailor your child's care and learning to make sure that they are able to thrive and enjoy their time in nursery.

Childcare providers understand that you, as parents, know the most about your child and it is therefore important that you tell the childcare provider about the types of things that your child likes to do, about any concerns that you have (regarding your child or the childcare that is going to be provided) or about anything else that you think might be important for them to know.

For example, some children will settle in on their first visit and others will take a little longer to get used to their new environment. Let the provider know if you feel that your child is a little insecure, then a longer 'settling-in period' may be introduced, where you can initially stay and play with your child for longer, to make sure that they are okay.

What will my child need to take?

Each childcare provider will have different facilities and the types of things that your child will have to take with them each day will depend upon the times of day they are due to go and the activities that are due to take place.

For example, outdoor play is strongly encouraged across all types of childcare provision, no matter what the weather! So, your child may need to take a waterproof coat or perhaps sun cream, but don't worry, your childcare provider will discuss all of this with you.

It is not advisable, however, for your child to take their own toys into a childcare setting where there will be other children. Experience shows that children tend to become very possessive over their toys, which can cause disagreements. Children can also become very upset if they cannot find their toy in the setting or if it gets broken or taken home by someone else.

How will I know that my child is doing okay?

Along with the initial assessment, regular observations are carried out on all children to help providers to monitor progress. This makes sure that your child is stimulated and that any areas for concern or focus can be identified and addressed.

It also allows the childcare setting to provide you with feedback regarding how well your child is getting on, or to discuss any issues or concerns. In order to do this effectively, it is important that your child attends regularly and for the number of sessions or hours that were initially agreed when your child started.

Learning plans developed for your child will have been created based on the days or hours that your child is due to attend, and these plans will only work if your child goes to the setting as agreed.

Obviously, there will be instances when you might be late dropping off or picking up your child due to personal circumstances, or your child might not be able to attend because of illness. However, if this happens a lot it can be very unsettling for your child and will make it harder for the childcare provider to make sure that your child is progressing well.

It is important for your child to get the best out of their time at nursery, playgroup or with a childminder, and this can be helped with a regular routine, familiar faces (childcare workers and other children) and by allowing them to maximise time to play, learn and socialise.

What if I have any concerns about my child's early education?

Any problems should be discussed in the first instance with your childcare provider; however, if you feel that your concerns are not being addressed appropriately then you can contact the following:

  • If you think that your child is not getting their full entitlement (perhaps the number of hours agreed is not being delivered or the setting is expecting you to make some form of payment to keep your place), or if you are considering moving your child to another provider, then please contact the Early Education Entitlement Manager on 01744 676542.
  • If there are welfare or safety issues, then please contact Ofsted on 0300 123 4666.

Can I get further help with my childcare costs?

The government has developed a number of new ways to help parents with their childcare costs for children of all ages.

Visit Childcare Choices to find out more.

Need more help?

If you have any queries, please contact our funded early education entitlement team on the following numbers:

To enquire about entitlements relating to funded childcare for two-year-olds or three to four year olds

Please Note: The telephone numbers stated only deal with funded childcare enquiries - for general enquiries please telephone our Contact Centre on 01744 676789

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