Shropshire Council

24U funding

The 24U scheme offers 15 hours of free early years education to eligible children. Use the information on this page to find out more about the scheme, whether your child is eligible and how to apply.

24U funding is not to be confused with the government’s expanded 15 hours of free childcare for 2-year-olds which is for eligible working families. For more information on this funding please visit Childcare Choices.

How will 24U help my child?

Your child will benefit greatly by having pre-school experience with a 'good' or 'outstanding' pre-school nursery or childminder. This period of time for your child is known as the Early Years Foundation Stage. Children who take up a 24U place will be making friends, having fun and learning all the time. The childcare provider will make sure your child’s needs are met to help them feel secure and confident about starting school when the time comes.

Research tells us that children who have high-quality pre-school experiences are more likely to be successful adults. So don’t delay, sign up today and help your child to learn through play!

Is my child entitled to this free early years education?

24U funding is for families currently receiving some additional forms of government support.

If you can answer 'yes' to one or more of the following questions your child may be eligible to receive 15 hours of free early years education per week over 38 weeks of the year, from the beginning of the term following their second birthday:

  • Has your child left care through special guardianship or an adoption or residence order?
  • Is the place for a child who is 'looked after' by a local council?
  • Does your child have a current statement of special educational needs (SEN) or an education, health and care plan (ECHP)?
  • Does your child get disability living allowance (DLA)?
  • Do you receive income support?
  • Do you receive income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)?
  • Do you receive income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)?
  • Do you receive support through part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act?
  • Do you receive the guaranteed element of state pension credits?
  • Do you receive the working tax credit four week run-on?
  • Do you receive tax credits and have an annual income less than £16,190?
  • Do you receive universal credit and have an annual income less than £15,400?
  • Do you receive child tax credits and have an annual income not exceeding £16,190?
  • Do you get tax credits and earn no more than £16,190 a year?
  • Is the child under the care of Zambrano Carers
  • Is the child a member of a family with no recourse to public funds with a right to remain in the UK on grounds of private/family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Is the child of a subset of failed asylum seekers (supported under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 – ‘the 1999 Act’)
  • S17 of the Childrens Act refers to those children who are subject to a LA Children in Need plan.

Will my benefits be affected?

If you receive childcare tax credits, and use some or all of your free 24U childcare entitlement to reduce the overall cost of any existing childcare, you need to inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as this may affect your payments.

When is my child eligible?

If you meet the criteria you're entitled to the free place from the term following your child's second birthday:

  • If your child was born between 1 January and 31 March you're entitled to the place from the summer term (after Easter)
  • If your child was born between 1 April and 31 August you're entitled to the place from the autumn term (September)
  • If your child was born between 1 September and 31 December you're entitled to the place from the spring term (January)

Where can my child attend?

  • We'll fund any child living in England who takes up their entitlement in a Shropshire setting
  • We'll fund any Shropshire child who takes up their entitlement at a setting based in Wales
  • Shropshire-based children attending settings outside Shropshire or Wales will be funded by the local authority area in which their childcare provider is based. We'll confirm eligibility, and parents should take their confirmation letter to their provider who would then claim funding for the place from their local authority
  • We won't fund any children receiving an entitlement through the Welsh Flying Start scheme – any parent who has a free childcare entitlement through this scheme who wants to take up this free childcare at a setting based in Shropshire should speak to their home local authority

The quality of childcare and nursery education for two year olds is very important. We work with early learning providers (pre-schools, playgroups, nurseries and childminders) who have been judged by Ofsted to be 'good' or 'outstanding' and are committed to improving their provision.

For details of these providers please contact the Family Information Service or ask your local childcare provider if they provide 24U funded places.

What will my child get?

A free early education/childcare place comprises 15 hours a week over 38 weeks, or a total of 570 hours which can be taken flexibly/stretched over the year (where the parent requests this and the provider is able to do this).

However, this must be taken over a minimum of two days per week, and between two-and-a-half hours and ten hours in any one day. If the offer is accessed over fewer than two days, then a portion of the offer will be lost. 

Once a place has been agreed for a child, it will remain funded until the child becomes entitled to a free early education place at three years, even where the family circumstances change and they may no longer meet the criteria.

Will my child receive a free school meal?

For some children, eligibility for a place is based on entitlement to free school meals. However, this doesn't mean a child will receive a free school meal. Parents should therefore be advised that where their child accesses their free entitlement over a lunch period, the setting can make a reasonable charge for lunch, or offer parents the opportunity to bring a healthy packed lunch. Parents should be made aware of this by the childcare provider.

How to apply

You can:

When your completed application form has been submitted we'll carry out an online eligibility check, which is why data such as your date of birth and national insurance number are required. You'll be notified of the result of your application via the email address used in your application, or by letter if an email isn't provided. If eligible, you'll then need to take your confirmation to your chosen childcare provider when arranging your child’s placement at their setting.

Please note that you may automatically receive correspondence from us via email or post inviting you to 'claim FREE childcare for your two-year-old'. This is because we receive a list from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of families who will be automatically eligible if they apply. Should you receive a 'not eligible' result to this application don't worry, a member of our team will be in touch to confirm your entitlement.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about the above. Contact us at or on 01743 254400.