Early years funding

The Local Offer is the place to find information on funding arrangements including:

  • what settings are expected to provide from within their core budget
  • information about how the ‘top-up’ funding element is allocated
  • eligibility criteria for the SEN Inclusion Fund
  • information about the Disability Access Fund

More information about the various funding elements for early years settings can be found on the Department for Education website, including ‘Early years entitlements (local authority funding of providers)

You can also read about entitlement to funded childcare on the Department for Education web pages. 

Read also our summary of pupil premium funding streams and the pupil premium plus guide on the PAC-UK website.

Core budget (early years block)

  • Unlike schools, early years settings do not receive notional funding for SEN. They are expected to meet the needs of children by using their core budget.
  • Funding is allocated locally against an agreed formula for each childcare place that a setting offers, and paid at an hourly rate.
  • Maintained nursery schools receive supplementary funding as they have a higher proportion of children with SEN.
  • The local authority should make it clear within their Local Offer what settings are expected to cover from within there core budget.

Top up funding (high needs block)

  • Some children have complex needs and the setting may request some additional ‘top-up funding, where they can evidence the high level of need.
  • Top-up funding can be used for children with or without an Education, health & care plan. Read more about EHC plans.
  • This might be used to provide specialist support services, or to make specific provision for an individual child or a group of children.
  • The local authority is responsible for managing this element which applies from birth to age 25.
  • Information about this should be included within the Local Offer.

SEN inclusion fund

Disability Access fund

  • Available for any 3 or 4 year-old a setting (not for those already in reception class) admits, who receives Disability Living Allowance.
  • The setting claims this from the local authority.
  • The money does not have to be spent on an individual child and could be used to improve accessibility in general, or for services for groups of children.
  • The local authority should explain how this works within their Local Offer pages.
  • Suffolk information for early years providers about the Disability access fund