Nurseries and flexible hours: ask the expert

Is there any encouragement being made for nurseries to fit with more flexible working hours? Lots of nurseries still only seem to do mornings, afternoons or a full day and full days are very expensive.

There are two initiatives that may help to ensure more flexible provision of childcare:

– Sufficiency Duty:
Each local authority is now required to ensure that there is enough childcare for local families who need it to work or study. This includes addressing community needs for childcare that ‘caters for irregular patterns of usage across the day, the week and the year’.

– Free early years education:
Children who are 3 and 4-years-old qualify for 2.5 hours per day of free nursery education. By 2010, the Government has committed to extending this provision to 15 hours per week offered on a flexible basis. Parents will be able to use their free entitlement ‘flexibly’ over three days rather than the 5 sessions of 2.5 hours at present.
There are a number of things you can do if you are looking for flexible childcare hours:

– Childminders are often able to offer more flexible hours. So, you may consider using a childminder rather than a nursery or use a childminder to pick up your child at the end of a nursery session. To find out if there are any childminders or nurseries offering flexible hours in your community, contact your local Children’s Information Service (CIS) via Childcare Link on 0800 234 6346. Your CIS will have listings of all registered providers.

– If there is no childcare that fits your working hours, you can write a letter to the Director of Children’s Services in your local authority. We suggest that you refer to their responsibility to ensure access to childcare under the childcare sufficiency duty. This can be found in the Childcare Act 2006, Section 6:

It is important to know that if you use registered childcare, there may be financial support available. Parents who are working may be eligible for the childcare element of Working Tax Credit or employer-supported childcare. Parents who are studying may be eligible for a variety of grants available through their institution or local education authority.

If you need help paying for childcare, you can contact Daycare Trust (the national childcare campaign) for more information: 020 7840 3350 /

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