Early Years funding for children with SEND (including Disability Access Fund)

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, Tax Credits or Universal Credit. 

Full details about eligibility can be found here at Help paying for childcare: Free education and childcare for 2-year-olds - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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).

More information on the 15 hours can be found at Help paying for childcare: 15 hours free childcare for 3 and 4-year-olds - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

More information on the 30 hours can be found at 30 hours free childcare - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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. This will be extended to 2 year old children from April 2024 and 9 months to 2 year old children from September 2024.

Providers get one payment of £828 per year per eligible child.

Children are eligible if they access 3 and 4 year free early learning and receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Early years providers are responsible for identifying eligible children – so please do make sure they know if your child gets Disability Living Allowance.


The Disability Access Fund (DAF) will be collected from providers between the Actual Headcount opening and the Amendment headcount closing each term.

Providers are responsible for identifying eligible children, confirming with parents/carers that they would like to claim for this, and making the claim to the LA via the Provider Portal on https://ems.sheffield.gov.uk/ProviderPortal/.

Providers must upload with their application the copy of the parent/carer consent to make the DAF claim, and a copy of the child’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) letter.

Template parent/carer agreement http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/schools-childcare/fel-funding-providers)

After applications have been approved, the lump sum payment of £828 will be made to the provider in the upcoming payment. This payment lasts for 3 terms.

The Local Authority will:

  • Check no other claims have been made for the child within the previous 2 terms or the current term and process the DAF payments due by the end of the term. If upon checking any ineligible claims these will be queried with providers.
  • DAF will not be offset against any other funding an eligible child may receive. DAF is paid as a lump sum once per financial year, per eligible child.
  • If more than one provider claims DAF for the same child, the LA will pay the first application received. If both applications are received on the same day, the parent will be asked to nominate a provider as above.
  • If a child receiving DAF moves from one setting to another within a financial year, the new setting will not be eligible to receive DAF funding for this child within the same financial year. DAF funding received by the original setting will not be recouped by the LA.
  • Where a child lives in a different local authority district to where they take up a FEL place, the local authority where the child accesses their FEL place will administer the DAF payment.

Early Years Inclusion Fund (EYIF)

Every local authority must have an Early Years Inclusion Fund (EYIF) to support Early Years providers in meeting the needs of individual children with SEND. In Sheffield, the funding is for children with more complex needs.

These funds are intended to support local authorities to work with providers.  This is to address the needs of individual children with SEND.

The fund also supports local authorities to commission SEND services as required under the Children and Families Act 2014.

EYIF will be provided on a banding basis using the Early Years Sheffield Support Grid exemplification (EYSSGe).  However, if a child requires EYIF and they are not currently entitled to FEL, an application can be made as an exceptional case.

Please read the guidance and supporting information when completing the application form.

Green box with white text that says EYIF application form Orange box with white text that reads EYIF guidance Blue box with white text that says EYIF frequently asked questions

Purple box with white text that says EYIF application example

Dark blue box with white text that says EYIF Flowchart

Please note that this funding is not available for children in Foundation Stage 2 (Reception class).

Early Years Providers are also reminded to claim Disability Access Funding for eligible children.  This is to help support them within the provision.  See advice above.

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 £3.64 per hour. 

Finding childcare

Free childcare places are available at approved nurseries, pre-schools, schools and childminders. 

If you are struggling to find a suitable childcare provider for your child with SEND, the 0-5 SEND Service may be able to help:

E-mail 0-5SEND.SupportService@sheffield.gov.uk 

Telephone: 0114 273 6411.

If your child has a diagnosis of vision impairment, hearing impairment or autism, you should contact the relevant support service instead. Click on the links takes you to their contact details.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

You may be able to claim DLA.  This is a benefit for children who are 16 and under with a condition or disability.

Please click on the logo below for more information.

White rectangle with text that says contact for families with disabled children