Early Years Funding

3 & 4 Year old Funding

Free nursery education is available to all 3 and 4 year olds from the term after their third birthday. 15 hours per week 38 weeks per year is available and this can now be stretched out to include holiday periods - although this can only be done from the beginning of each new term

The 15 hours can be used at registered childcare providers such as:

  • day nurseries

  • pre-schools/playgroups

  • nursery schools/classes and

  • accredited network childminders

You can divide the 15 hours between two providers if you wish, but they must be spread over at least 3 days. Over 2 days, the maximum your child can claim is 12.5 hours. The maximum that can be claimed in one day is 10 hours. The minimum session length is 3 hours.

When is my child entitled to a free early education place?

  • Your child may access a place from the term after their third birthday, subject to the capacity of your chosen childcare provider

  • Children born between 1 April and 31 August will be eligible to a free place from 1 September following their third birthday

  • Children born between 1 September and 31 December will be eligible to a free place from 1 January following their third birthday

  • Children born between 1 January and 31 March will be eligible to a free place from 1 April following their third birthday

How do I access the free entitlement?

  • Once you have chosen your provider and you feel confident your child will be happy there, you will be required to register with them by completing a Parent Declaration Form

  • This means providing proof of eligibility for the free entitlement (e.g. birth certificate), and negotiating the hours your child will attend the setting

  • The free entitlement should be free on point of contact or with immediate reduction in fees

  • Your provider may charge you for providing breakfast, lunch or snacks, this should be agreed in advance


2 Year old Funding

Free 2 Year old funding is potentially available for children attending Toybox Great Denham. Bedford Borough Council offers up to 12.5 hours of free placement per week subject to their terms and conditions being met. Please note places are always subject to Bedford Borough Council having available funds.

In order to be eligible families must meet the following criteria:

The child must be two years of age.

If the application is being made for a child currently looked after by the local authority then they are automatically eligible for two year old funding (an application form will still need to be completed).

For all other children, the family must be in receipt of one of the following income based benefits:

  • Income support

  • Income based Jobseekers Allowance

  • Higher rate Child Tax Credit

  • Disability related Working Tax Credit

  • Pension Credit

And must meet at least one of the following:

  • Live in specific areas of deprivation in one of the following wards: Castle, Cauldwell, De Parys, Eastcotts, Goldington, Kempston, Kingsbrook, Harpur, Queens Park

  • Be a teenage parent (not accessing Care to Learn funding)

  • Be a lone parent

  • Child or sibling with additional needs in receipt of services from the Child Development Centre, Early Years Support Team and/or specialist services

  • Be at risk of Post Natal Depression (PND) as identified by a health professional

  • A parent with an additional need including those with a disability, experiencing domestic abuse, mental health problems or problematic drugs and/or alcohol issues

  • Be a parent accessing Income Related Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

  • A child subject to Section 17 or Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 (a child in need or a child subject to a child protection plan)

2 year old funding.

If you are eligable you will recieve a letter or post card from Bedford Borough Council. 


Finding a childcare setting

A parent may be aware of a childcare setting that they would like to use and can specify this on the application form. Otherwise our Outreach Officer will support the parent to find a suitable childcare setting for their child.

Only childcare settings that meet the following criteria can be used:

  • Have a good or outstanding Ofsted inspection outcome or be actively working towards a good rating

  • Regularly evaluate the quality of their provision through an improvement process

Bedford Borough Council will organise the funding direct with the chosen childcare setting.

Ongoing support

The Outreach Officer will provide, where necessary, ongoing support for parents which may include greeting the parent at the childcare setting on their first day or calling the parent to see how they are getting on.

Please refer to our leaflet Free Early Education and Childcare for 2 year olds for parents (PDF opens in new window) for more information.

To find out more information please contact the Family Information Service on 0800 023 2057 or email fis@bedford.gov.uk