When considering your options for childcare you need to think about what works for you and for your child. This could be about flexibility, ratio of children to staff, or even costs. Don't underestimate the time this will take and be aware that places get filled early on.
Nursery: Children can go to a nursery full or part time from birth until they start school or turn five. At nursery your child will have the opportunity to interact with other children, helping them develop social skills.
Registered childminder: Childminders, who need to be registered, can take care of up to six children under age eight in their own home. A childminder provides tailored care and usually offer flexible times for your child's pick-up or drop-off.
Nanny: A nanny will look after your child, or children, in your own home and can live in or out. Their hours vary, so having a nanny can be a flexible option. If you choose to hire one you’ll be regarded as their employer so you’ll need to set up tax and National Insurance payments.
Au pair: An au pair is a young person on a cultural exchange programme. They look after your children and help around the house in return for food, accommodation and a small allowance. They’re rarely qualified as a child carer so, for amongst other things, they’re not allowed to have sole responsibility for very young children.
Informal childcare: This includes sharing childcare with a friend or getting grandparents to help. If your child's grandparents take care of your child and are of working age, they should look into applying for Working Tax and National Insurance credits. Any informal childcare still needs to be clear on things like hours of care, food and safety.
If you're in work, find out if you have an employee assistance programme (EAP) that can help you find the type of childcare that works best for you and your child.
Money: Costs of childcare can vary hugely so don't leave finding out about the costs until last.
Registration: You should only use a registered service. Find registered childcare providers through Ofsted (England), the Care Inspectorate (Scotland), Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (Wales), and Family Support NI (Northern Ireland).
The right fit: Visit the childcare provider and chat to the people who'll be looking after your child.. Use this time to make sure you and your child would be comfortable with them.
What's included: What’s included in the fees? Do they include things like meals, nappies and milk, or will you have to supply these things? Are there any additional costs, for example for trips out?
When they operate: Are they open all year or just during school terms? If it's just term time you'll need to make alternate childcare arrangements during holidays.
Group size: Consider what number of children being cared for, and the ratio of staff to children best suits your child.
Flexibility: Do you need to be able to change your routine, drop off time, days or weeks when your child needs to be cared for?
Childcare vouchers: A portion of your salary gets paid directly to the childcare provider, giving you a tax saving. Your chosen childcare provider will need to be registered to accept these vouchers.
Direct payment: Your employer pays a set amount (dependent on your tax bracket) directly to your childcare provider. You won’t have to pay tax or National Insurance up to a certain amount.
Early years: All three and four year olds in the UK are entitled to some free early education or childcare. What hours you’re entitled to depend on where you live. If you want to find out more about your options for childcare, check out NCT or the Money Advice Service.
Tax Credits: If you work for at least 16 hours a week and pay for registered childcare you can apply for Working Tax Credit. There’s a childcare element to this, which, if you’re eligible, can cover up to 70% of your childcare costs.
Tax free childcare: This scheme gives you 20% of your yearly childcare costs, funded by the government. It's available for children under the age of 12, or under 17 for disabled children, with the youngest children getting into the scheme first.
TIP: Find out if you have an employee assistance programme (EAP) that can help you find the childcare arrangement that works best for you.
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