The bottom line is childcare is something most families need and the worry of how to afford childcare plays on many a parents mind. The older your child gets the more money you will have to spend on childcare. No more so than during those periods when you and your partner have to work – you can’t do both. One of you may decide to stay home to take care of the children. You could also be lucky enough to have parents who can help shoulder some of the responsibility and cost. You may be able to cover some of the cost with childcare vouchers. Otherwise, the chances are you will need to find a place for your child to be looked after when you’re not around.
Some of the childcare options available are outlined below and include:
This is normally a stay-at-home parent working from the comfort of their own home and looking after a small number of other people’s children along with their own.
They should be registered with Ofsted and inspected to check all is as it should be.
It’s best to get one quite close to your home, so you don’t have to travel far to leave and pick up the little one.
Hopefully it goes without saying that you should only use someone you feel comfortable with – we’re talking about the care of your child here!
Find out more from the National Childminders Association or from your local council.
Setting yourself up as a childminder could be an option if you want to look after your children and earn some extra money – see here for more.
Nurseries are a lot more expensive than childminders, especially in big cities such as London.
They may also be a lot harder to get to and you will have to drop off and collect your child each day on time.
They are, however, very good at giving kids the chance to bond and get to know each other.
Also, a big plus point is that staff will be fully trained and qualified to work with children.
For more information about nurseries and how to find one in your area, check out: National Daycare Trust and National Day Nurseries Association.
A nanny is a trained childcare professional who comes to (or possibly even lives at) your house to take care of your children.
The good think about having a nanny is that they will place your child first and give them their full attention and love they crave.
This is a demanding, full-time role and the pay should reflect this.
A nanny can cost anything from £18,000 to 30,000 depending on age, location and years of experience.
This can be reduced if you know or have any friends nearby with children of the same ager that need caring for. This way, you can split the cost together.
Remember that you will be acting as the nanny’s employer and have to make sure that tax and national insurance are being paid correctly. See Nannytax for more information and payroll services.
If you’re short on time it can be worth paying an agency to find a nanny for you. You will have to pay an agency fee but it can be worth it to filter the many dodgy applicants you could get through the Internet. Mierous Hennessy from Top Notch Nannies says “an agency is used to interviewing people, checking their references and making sure they are legally allowed to work in this country. If you just put an ad out yourself you can get all sorts of people applying, many of whom have nothing like the experience, qualifications or visas that they say they have!” Top Notch provides nannies, mother’s helps and maternity nurses and au pairs to families around the world.
An au pair isn’t trained to take care of children like a nanny is. They are usually young women from abroad who come to practise their English language skills while living with a family in exchange for some help around the home.
They can do basic childcare and also help out with housework around the house to ease your workload.
Mierous Hennessy of Top Notch Nannies says, “Au Pairs are good as an extra pair of hands but shouldn’t be left in sole charge of children under 5. It is not safe as you really need someone with experience and, ideally, qualifications to care for very little ones.”
They are cheaper than having a nanny and in most cases, can be paid some pocket money, board and food, in exchange for their services.
Play groups and pre-schools are usually run by the community on a not-for-profit basis.
The usually only cost a few pounds per play and can be a great place for children (and parents) to make friends.
However, most sessions only last for a few hours so they aren’t really an alternative to full-time (or even much part-time) childcare.
See the Pre-school Learning Alliance for more information.
Many families reply on grandparents, or other informal childcare helpers such as friends and neighbours, to keep things ticking over without being paid for the privilege.
As well as being affordable, it can be handy to leave your children with someone you trust.
Registering as a childminder (see above) could also be an option for a grandparent wanting to take kiddy care a bit more seriously and perhaps make some money.
Contact your local Sure Start agency if you are on a low income. They are there to help families in the first few years of your child’s life.