Finding the right Childcare for your Child
Finding the right childcare for your children can be a daunting task. The different types of care available can seem overwhelming, and how do you decide who to entrust with helping to bring up your children?
You might need childcare for many different reasons: you’re returning to work; you need someone to pick the children up from school; you need some help around the house; you need someone to help with your new-born; the reasons can be as varied as the childcare options available.
So how do you go about finding the right childcare for your family? The biggest piece of advice for any parent thinking of childcare is to plan ahead. Many nurseries have limited places which can get booked up even years in advance whilst finding the right nanny or child-minder can equally take weeks if not months.
Here are some initial questions to consider:
- How old are your children and do they have any special requirements?
- How many hours per week do you need childcare? Afterschool, mornings, weekends and overnight?
- Would you prefer a home or nursery environment?
- Does your childcare have to be near your place of work and what is your available travelling time?
- Would you / are you able to share childcare with another family?
- What is your budget? Do you have access to childcare vouchers through your employer?
Your potential childcare options are family, child-minders, nannies, mother’s helps, crèches, nurseries and au pairs. Each option has its pros and cons. Au-pairs, for example, sometimes have limited childcare experience and should only be used for children over 2 years old (hire via an agency for additional reassurance). Nurseries are able to provide toddlers with the social interaction that they need but not the one-to one attention that an infant requires. Nannies provide flexible childcare in your own home without the need to travel whereas child-minders are a home away from home with fixed hours. The option that you choose has to work for you, your commute (if you’re working) and your daily routine. As each child is different, what works for one family may not be ideal for yours.
When considering the cost of each option, remember that you can also have a combination of two options such as a nanny / child-minder for the beginning and end of the day, with a nursery in-between. Alternatively you could join forces with another family to nanny share. There are also financial options available to help reduce the costs of childcare such as childcare vouchers provided by employers. These allow basic rate tax payers to pay for up to £243 (£55/week) of childcare each month with vouchers from their employers. This is PER PARENT so two working parents could get £486 a month of vouchers. The amount for higher rate earners is £28 each week or £124 each month and for additional rate earners the amount is £22 each week or £97 each month. From 6 April 2013 the exempt amount for additional rate earners will be £25 each week or £110 each month. Vouchers are not specific to each child and have a long expiry date, so if you know you’re going to have higher childcare costs in the near future it is wise to get the maximum allowance now. Vouchers can be used to pay for nannies, provided they are OFSTED registered, child-minders or nursery places.
If you are looking for a nanny to look after your children in your home, consider whether you will require them to carry out light household tasks such as the laundry and cleaning up after the children. Most nannies will do but check. Think about whether you want them to be bilingual or be able to have certain skills and experiences to be able to share with your children. Before starting your search for a nanny, make sure you list the type of care you require, any qualifications or skills needed, your location, your children’s ages, and any key personality traits you desire from a nanny. Plus think about your budget, not just what your nanny wishes to be paid per hour but how much your total budget is to account for income tax and national insurance contributions. As an employer you will have to provide her with an employment contract and payslips but don’t be alarmed, it is very straightforward and a lot easier than it sounds.
It might be a question of trial and error but with forethought and planning, finding the right childcare need not be stressful or traumatic. Ultimately the right childcare option is the one that leaves your children happy, stimulated and safe.
Sarah-Jane Butler, founder of Parental Choice, the essential “one-stop shop” to help you make the right decision on your childcare needs. For more information on your childcare options, see the Parental Choice website: www.parentalchoice.co.uk.
Sarah-Jane Butler, Director, Parental Choice