The Department for Education is consulting on which two-year-olds should benefit in the second phase of the government expansion of free childcare from 2014 when 40 per cent of two-year-olds will be eligible for the free entitlement.
From next September 20 per cent of two-year-olds will be eligible for the entitlement and will be drawn from families meeting the criteria also used to decide eligibility for free school meals, as well as looked-after children.
In the consultation the government is proposing that this eligibility criteria is expanded to also include children in in low income families earning no more than £16,190 each year; those who have special educational needs or a disability and children who have been adopted.
Children’s minister Sarah Teather said: "Babies born this year will receive the benefit of high quality early education in two years’ time. It’s vital that we get this right for their sake. This government is doing all it can to ensure that children in the poorest families are able to achieve what they want to do.”
From September 2013, under the first phase of the entitlement, the most disadvantaged 20 per cent of two-year-olds will be entitled to 15 hours of free childcare.
Ten areas in England will be trialling the free entitlement for 1,000 two-year-olds from this September.
The National Day Nurseries Association’s chief executive Purnima Tanuku said: “We are pleased children with special educational needs will be eligible for funded two-year-old places, as this will offer parents much-needed support.
“NDNA is keen that the funding nurseries receive will reflect the additional care that children with SEN or a disability may need, for example being looked after on a one-to-one basis or provision of specialist equipment.
“We hope that local authorities and the government will have a comprehensive strategy in place to make sure eligible families are aware of the offering.”