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Childcare/ Nursery

Last updated: 03 March 2015
There are a number of childcare options available to you, which you may want to consider, especially if you’re going back to work after having a baby.

It is worth weighing up all your options carefully, as it’s important you use a route that you feel comfortable with and one that suits you financially.

Below, MMM has listed some of the main options available to parents today.

 

Nursery

A nursery provides care and education for children from as young as 6 weeks to age 5, although some only start taking children from age 2.

Nurseries typically open from around 7am to 6pm all year round, except for public holidays.

Private nurseries are great for working parents, because of the longer operating hours.

 

What’s the cost?

Unfortunately, nurseries aren’t cheap. The cost very much depends on where you live, but can range from £50 to £80 a day.

Every nursery has its own rules, but you will normally have to commit to a minimum of two sessions a week, and once you pick the days, you cannot move them around as and when you please.

A whole day counts as a one session, but for some nurseries, a morning or afternoon counts as one session.

You may get a discount if you have other children also attending the same nursery.

If your child does not attend a session for whatever reason, you are still charged. Equally, if it’s a public holiday, you will not be given your money back if it happens to be your child’s set nursery day that day.

 

Is your child aged over age 3? There’s free funding

Once your child reaches age three, they will benefit from free Early Years Funding to help towards childcare.

Three to four year olds are entitled to 15 hours free each week, for 38 weeks a year – so this will significantly reduce your nursery costs.

Your child becomes eligible for this from either 1 September, 1 January or 1 April after their 3rd birthday.

How the free funding is spread depends on individual local authorities – you should check with your nursery for information on this.

The free 15 hours can be used at nurseries, children’s centres, playgroups and pre schools, childminders and Sure Start children’s centres.

Your childcare provider will give you the necessary forms to activate this funding, which is available to everyone.

 

Free funding for children aged 2

Some two year olds can also get free early education and childcare funding – but it does depend on your circumstances.

It was made available in September 2013 to those that meet the eligibility criteria. If you benefit from any of the following, you may be entitled to the free early funding:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Support through the immigration and asylum act
  • Receive working tax credit
  • Child tax credit
  • You child has special educational needs
  • Or you have a total gross annual household income of less than £16,190 a year
Check with your local council here to see if you may be eligible. If you are unsure, then it’s worth asking, as the rules on this are always changing.

 

What’s good about nurseries?

  • Your child will be taken care of by qualified staff
  • They will have other children to play with
  • Nursery is educational and many also offer extra-curricular activities, such as learning Spanish or music
  • It can be good preparation for school
  • Nurseries are inspected by Ofsted, so you can have some reassurance of the quality of care and make a judgement about the strengths and weaknesses of the nursery

What’s bad about nurseries?

  • Nurseries are expensive, but, unfortunately, the staff are not paid well. You may find staff leaving often
  • Opening times mean you may have to leave work early if you commute to work
  • Nurseries do not cater for parents who work at weekends
  • Nurseries are a breeding ground for germs – expect your child to catch them and be ill regularly – oh, and head lice!
  • If your  child is ill, then you will have to take time off work
  • Your child not may not get as much attention as s/he needs

 

Registered childminders

A registered childminder is someone that looks after children in their home – up to 6 children aged under age 8, three children aged under 5, and one aged under 12 months.

They are pretty flexible to work with and will drop off and pick up children from school or playgroups.

You may be able to find a childminder from a recommendation, but the National Childminding Association can also help you find one in your area.

Unfortunately, this option is no cheaper than a nursery and can cost around £75 – £120 a week; costs can depend on where you live.

As long as the childminder is registered, when your child reaches age 3, they will benefit from free early years funding to help towards childcare. You can use this funding to pay for the childminder.

Three to four year olds are entitled to 15 hours free each week, for 38 weeks a year – so this will significantly reduce your costs.

Your child becomes eligible for this from 1 September, 1 January or 1 April after their 3rd birthday.

How the free funding is spread depends on individual local authorities – you should check with your local authority or childcare provider for information on this.

The free 15 hours can be used at nurseries, children’s centres, playgroups and pre schools, childminders and Sure Start children’s centres.

Your childcare provider will give you the necessary forms to activate this funding, which is available to everyone.

 

Free funding for children aged 2

The government recently announced that free funding would also be made available to some two year olds.

This will be available from September 2013, but only to those that meet the eligibility criteria – this is essentially the same criteria used to decide whether a family would be entitled to fee school meals.

The government is however looking to revise its eligibility criteria from September 2014 so that more children may become entitled. This is yet to be consulted on.

 

What’s good about using a childminder?

  • Your  child may feel more secure with a childminder and may feel more comfortable in a home like environment
  • Most childminders have their own children, so your child will have other children to play with
  • You can continue using a childminder when your child starts school
  • Your child will get more attention as they will be in a smaller group of children
  • Childminders are subject to Ofsted inspections, so you can assess their strengths and weaknesses

What’s bad about using a childminder?

  • Childminders will not necessarily be able to offer as many activities as a nursery – there’s more staff and facilities at a nursery. However, many now have excellent facilities in their homes, so check them out first.
  • You may have to provide additional funding for days out
  • If you’re childminder is ill, you may have to take time off

 

Playgroup/pre-school

This is community or voluntary care and education offering both morning and afternoon sessions for 3-5 year olds.

They are run during term time and are significantly cheaper than some of the other childcare options.

Costs are on average £3-£9 per session.

Sessions are quite short, but can help your child ease out of the comfortable home life and start preparing for school.

Pre-schools and playgroups are often run in community centres, church halls, leisure centres, and schools.

Again, when your child reaches age three, they will benefit from free early years funding to help towards childcare.

Three to 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours free each week, for 38 weeks a year – so this will significantly reduce your nursery costs.

Your child becomes eligible for this from 1 September, 1 January or 1 April after their 3rd birthday.

How the free funding is spread depends on individual local authorities – you should check with your pre-school for information on this.

The free 15 hours can be used at nurseries, children’s centres, playgroups and pre schools, childminders and Sure Start children’s centres.

Your childcare provider will give you the necessary forms to activate this funding, which is available to everyone.

 

Free funding for children aged 2

The government recently announced that free funding would also be made available to some two year olds.

This will be available from September 2013, but only to those that meet the eligibility criteria – this is essentially the same criteria used to decide whether a family would be entitled to fee school meals.

The government is however looking to revise its eligibility criteria from September 2014 so that more children may become entitled. This is yet to be consulted on.

What’s good about pre-school/playgroups?

  • It’s a great way to ease your child out of the home comfort zone
  • Your child will benefit from playing with other children similar to their age
  • Pre-schools and playgroups are subjects to Ofsted checks, so you can make a judgement on strengths and weaknesses
  • Costs are significantly cheaper than other childcare options

 

What’s bad about pre-school/playgroups?

  • Sessions are often just mornings, and are quite short – so this will not give you much flexibility for work
  • There is limited funding, so there may not be as many facilities and extra-curricular activities as a nursery
  • You cannot send your child to pre-school before age 2 or 3
  • It can be run by volunteers – so do not assume assistant staff are DBS checked (previously known as CRB) – this is a criminal record check (although it is unlikely these days that anyone would be allowed to work with children without the appropriate checks).

 

Nanny

This is by far the most expensive option, but if you can afford it, it’s a great one.

Offering you flexibility, a nanny will have more of a live-in role to suit the needs of you and your child.

The costs are high however, with your average nanny coming in at £280-£500 per week, plus tax and national insurance contributions.

You will essentially become their employer, so you will have to deal with PAYE (pay as you earn) – you can find out more about PAYE here.

However, you can hire agencies such as Nanny Tax to help you with payroll – although there is an annual fee for these services to take into consideration.

In some cases, you may have to provide your nanny with boarding as well as provide them with food.

Nannies can register with Ofsted voluntarily.

 

What’s good about a nanny?

  • Your child gets looked after in their own home and childcare can be tailored to meet your needs
  • A nanny can still look after your children if they are ill, so you will not have to take time off work
  • You can nanny share to cut costs

 

What’s bad about a nanny?

  • Being an employer is expensive, so prepare yourself to pay for things like time off sick or even maternity pay if they get pregnant
  • Your child could get very attached to the nanny and see them as the parent
  • Your child may miss out on playing with other children
  • Not all nannies are Ofsted registered

 

Informal childcare

With child care costs being so high, many people are turning to grandparents for childcare.

Some parents are even sharing childcare with other parents and some have simply changed their work pattern.

A recent survey showed that parents are saving £1,888 a month in babysitting costs by making use of grandparents for childcare – so if you have willing parents to look after your children, then it’s certainly worth considering.

You can also find a baby sitter via Find a Babysitter.

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So, if you’re looking to save a few more pounds on your groceries, take a look at Approved food – you’ll be surprised at just how good the bargains are.

 

Keep up with MMM on Twitter @MumMoneyMatters and Facebook !

 

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