Childcare funding

Free early learning

For two-year-olds: Two-year-olds qualify for 570 hours of free childcare per year if they receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or have an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan. Some two-year-olds may also qualify if your family claims certain state benefits, for example Income Support or tax credits.

For three- and four-year-olds: All parents of three- and four-year-olds are entitled to 570 hours of free  childcare per year. This is usually taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year, but you can use your hours over more weeks if your childcare provider is able to be more flexible. Working parents of three- and four-year-olds are entitled to 30 hours per week (1,140 hours per year).

For more information about free childcare, please visit the Sheffield Directory.


Disability Access Fund

This is money given to childcare providers to help support three- and four-year-olds with special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities in their setting. Providers get one payment of £615 per year per eligible child. Children are eligible if they access free early learning and receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Early years providers are responsible for identifying eligible children – so make sure they know if your child gets DLA! For more information, please visit the Sheffield Directory.


SEN Inclusion Fund

Every local authority must have an SEN Inclusion Fund to support early years providers in meeting the needs of individual children with SEN. In Sheffield, the funding is for children with more complex needs who are supported by local authority specialist support services (Early Years Inclusion Team, Autism Service, Vision Support Service and Hearing Impaired Service) and is accessed via their recommendation and monitoring by one of the service teachers. Children’s needs will be evidenced at minimum level 3 on the Sheffield Early Years Support Grid. The funding may be targeted for embedding particular strategies which are recommended to meet a child’s needs or to facilitate a transition package. It is allocated on a termly basis and settings are required to evidence their use of the funding before any monies might be renewed.  For children with long-term and significant SEND in Early Years provision, funding can be attached to an EHC plan whilst children are attending pre-school settings if the provision in the plan requires additional funding. To access this fund, providers should contact the council’s Early Years Inclusion Team (tel. 0114 273 6411).


Direct Payments for childcare

If you cannot find suitable childcare for your child, then you may be able to get Direct Payments for childcare. This money can be used to employ a Personal Assistant (PA) to look after your child while both parents (if it’s a two-parent household) are at work. Parents must contribute at least £3.31 per hour. Download a factsheet and an application form.


Finding childcare

Free childcare places are available at approved nurseries, pre-schools, schools and childminders. Sheffield’s Local Offer website has information about local childcare providers and the support they offer for children with additional needs or disabilities.

If you are struggling to find a suitable childcare provider for your disabled child, the Early Years Inclusion Team may be able to help; email Elizabeth.Hodkin@sheffield.gov.uk or call 0114 273 6411. If your child has a diagnosis of visual impairment, hearing impairment or autism, you should contact the relevant support service instead.