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Have you sorted your summer holiday childcare? If not, here are some suggestions of where to look and how to cut the cost.
The summer holidays are approaching fast and many parents put together a complicated tapestry of ways to get through to September. If you haven’t got anything sorted out, there is help out there, but not nearly as much as you might hope for and much of it at a price. Plus things are not back yet to the pre-Covid levels in terms of availability.
The first place to start is with your local council’s Family Information Service. These usually list any local holiday clubs and activities on their website. Your school may also have details of holiday playschemes run by local leisure centres or your school may host some. For help with childcare for children with special needs, contact the Family and Childcare Trust.
Other organisations may run their own holiday playschemes and camps. Barracudas.co.uk offers multi-activity days for schoolchildren up to the age of 14. All are Ofsted-registered which means working parents can use Tax-Free Childcare to reduce the costs. Those working parents still able to use childcare vouchers can use them until their children turn 15 (16 if they’re disabled). And those claiming Universal Credit can claim back up to 85% of the cost of childcare for children under 16 up to a maximum of £646 for one child, and £1,108 for two or more children. However, you only get the money back after the place has been taken up. Those on tax credits can claim child tax credit until the 31st August after their child turns 16.
There are also babysitting apps that provide flexible childcare in the form of babysitters, childminders and nannies, like Bubble, Yoopies and Koru Kids. Childcare.co.uk also lists out of school childcare support. Check out schemes such as Fun Fest Franchising which may have places in your area.
If there are no activities near you or not the right ones or you can’t afford them, the alternative is to fall back on family and friends, ask your employer for extra flexibility or take unpaid parental leave. Using extended family and sharing the holidays out with your partner, if you have one, and accessing your friendship network [you may be able to divvy up days with other working parents] can get you through at least some of the weeks. If you can work from home, you or your partner, if you have one, may be able to negotiate flexi hours so that you can divide the day into early and late shifts and work around childcare. If you work shifts, see if you can collaborate with other colleagues, including other working parents, to flex your hours more. You may be able to negotiate longer hours at other points of the year to allow you to have some time off over summer. Some employers allow employees to buy extra holiday to get over the summer holiday challenge. Check with your manager or HR team if you have one.
If you can afford it or if it works out less costly than childcare, you can take unpaid parental leave, although you have to give due notice so, if you have not spoken to your employer yet, it may be something to consider for the next holidays.
If you are off with the kids, check out local museums, parks, etc, to find out what activities they have on offer. Many will be free of charge and getting out and about can make a world of difference to their holidays and may help recharge your batteries too. If it rains and depending on the ages of your children, you could try things like t-shirt designing, making dens, changing their room around or putting on a show. Creative Sparks, a fantastic book by Sarah Cressall, founder of The Creation Station, has a long list of tips on creative activities you can do with the kids. The activities range from making a bug hotel, storytelling and making ice balls to making a one-minute movie and each is tailored to older or younger children.
It’s a huge challenge covering the holidays, and it shouldn’t be, and with staff shortages, many employers will find it difficult to let people have additional time off. However, the alternative is that they lose people entirely. At some point, something has to give.