Source: https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/free-childcare-2-year-olds?step-by-step-nav=f237ec8e-e82c-4ffa-8fba-2a88a739783b

It seems that you can claim childcare benefits from the UK government for your 2-year-old only if you are not working or are very low income. It seems strange that it covers people who seemingly choose not to work.

Cynically, it seems that these are the parents most able to take care of their kids themselves, so least in need of childcare, but not a parent or low income, so I realise I am likely missing something.

To me, the policy only makes sense from a perspective that every parent should ideally have their kid in childcare, but the government wants to avoid paying for kids whose parents may be able to foot the bill themselves. Does the government consider it beneficial for all kids to be in childcare? I'm no educational psychologist, but that seems strange to me.

I'd love if anyone knows the government stated rationale for such a policy, but well considered opinions welcome.

  • 3
    You seem to make a major shift in your second paragraph. The law applies to people who 'are not working'. In the second sentence you suddenly write something about 'choosing not to work', this is a very different thing, why do you think these can just be exchanged?
    – quarague
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 7:45
  • 2
    Having to care for a 2-year old all day round definitely makes even finding a job much harder. And if you find one, it could take weeks to arrange for childcare if you weren't able to afford it before.
    – jpa
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 7:52
  • 2
    This question seems to almost be questioning the entire concept of welfare, unemployment benefits or otherwise caring for the poor. It's a very privileged worldview to think that every unemployed person "chose not to work". Someone who isn't working is "most able to take care of their kids themselves"?? How would they afford food, clothes, rent, etc. with no income? How would they find a job if they're looking after their child all the time?
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 15:33
  • @NotThatGuy I think you're right, but I still think this is a good question. Other privileged people (myself included) probably have thought the same thing, and having an answer that addresses it is useful for us.
    – T Hummus
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


The question is based on a misconception.

To be eligible for this benefit, you either need to have a low paid job (and so have earnings-related Income Support or Universal Credit) or be unable to find work (and so have Job Seekers Allowance or Universal Credit). A person who chooses to not to work in order to care for their child is not eligible.

The main beneficiaries for this would be very low income families, often those with a single parent caring for a child, in which the carer wants to work (or wants to work for longer), but is unable to afford the cost of childcare.

Generally, the policies of the government are that children from 4 should be in some form of structured time with other children and away from their parents (eg in nursery school, reception class or kindergarten), and younger children may benefit from some time away from their parents (if only because it allows the parent to earn more money than they could get from benefit and so improve the financial standing of the family)

  • You're exactly right, I misunderstood the eligibility criteria and thought it was possible to claim this when you chose not to work, which is incorrect. Is it best to delete my question or leave it up? Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 16:10
  • 3
    @Evolving_Richie leave it up. For anyone else who thinks the same.
    – Jontia
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 18:17

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