The summer holidays are looming. What are your childcare options? If you haven’t got things sorted, don’t worry.
Our surveys show that many parents are in the same boat and leave it till the last minute to patch something together that more or less works.
If you can, though, planning ahead is a good idea. According to Coram Family and Childcare who have lots of information and advice for parents seeking childcare solutions, there are several options open to you for childcare in the long summer holidays, but it can become very expensive, so it is important to budget and ensure that you are claiming all the help you can with your childcare costs.
Childcare options during the holidays will largely depend on the age of your child/children. You will also need to think about your working pattern and how this fits in with dropping off and picking up your child from holiday childcare.
Most local authorities produce a booklet or information pack about holiday schemes in the area for children aged between 5 and 14. Often this includes details of activity and play-based schemes which may be local authority run schemes or charity, voluntary sector and faith based schemes.
They are generally packed with activities for children including music, sports, outings, arts and play activities. Some will include a selection of all of these activities, whilst others will run specialist schemes. Speak to your local Family Information Service about what there is in your area.
For children under five, some children’s centres, nurseries and childminders can offer additional holiday care if your usual childcare provider is closed for the holidays. Again, you will need to speak to your local Family Information Service.
Holiday childcare can be very expensive but, if the childcare you use is registered with Ofsted, you may be able to get some help with your childcare costs.
All care for children under the age of seven has to be registered with Oftsed and many providers catering for older children will also be registered. Not only will they have met the minimum requirements for registration, but you may also be able to get help with some of your costs. If your chosen holiday scheme isn’t registered, speak to the manager about getting registered as it can benefit both of you.
For parents in receipt of out-of-work benefits, or those studying, many local authority schemes offer concessionary prices; speak to your Family Information Service about what is on offer.
For working parents, there are two main forms of assistance with childcare costs: the childcare element of Universal Credit [or working tax credit if you have been claiming since before the roll-out of UC] and employer-supported childcare schemes.
The childcare element of Universal Credit can pay up to 85 per cent of your registered childcare costs. For more information about how Universal Credit could help you with childcare costs, click here.
The way your credit award is calculated is based on your income and the cost of your childcare. The system is complicated and you will not receive a lump sum at the beginning of the holidays.
Unfortunately, this does mean you will have a large amount of money to pay upfront for your holiday childcare, and you will then save your weekly credit award throughout the year to pay for subsequent holiday care.
Parents can register for Tax-Free Childcare and the extension of free childcare through the Childcare Choices government website which gives information about the new schemes. The government says tax-free childcare can cut childcare costs for working families across the UK by up to £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 for disabled children, but the amount parents save will depend on how much they spend on childcare. They will have to pay fees upfront and claim the tax back. For every £8 they spend, the Government will top up by £2. Tax-free childcare is currently available to those with children who are under 12.
Because of the new scheme, the Government has closed the childcare voucher system to new joiners. Childcare voucher schemes are offered by some employers and allow staff to claim back the tax on their childcare costs.
Schools tend to send out information about holiday playschemes – if not, ask. They may be able to make suggestions of subsidised schemes. You can also investigate services like yoopies.co.uk which offers a range of childcare solutions, au pairs, holiday camps and the like. There are a plethora of different au pair agencies, including Granny Au Pairs. Another option is Student Nannies.
You could also try talking to your employer about flexible working over the summer, for instance, working more from home if your job allows this so you can cut commuting time, changing shift patterns or reducing hours temporarily [and perhaps making them up during busier periods during the term – you may be able to sell this as an advantage for your employer].
This would make it easier to pick up from holiday playschemes that often end early. Or you could talk to friends and family about sharing some of the burden, for instance, you could look after a neighbour’s kids for a couple of days a week and they could take yours for another part of the week.