Childcare: options for working parents

Making the decision to go back to work following a period of absence can be difficult for plenty of reasons but trying to arrange and pay for childcare can be one of the most daunting. With childcare costs so high it is easy for parents to feel deterred and question the financial value of going back to work, but fear not! There are several options available to help relieve the financial burden of childcare – see which could help you.

Free childcare for 3-4-year-olds
All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can now get 570 hours free childcare per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year. Some 3-to-4-year-olds are eligible for 30 hours free childcare a week, this may be the case if you or your partner (if you have one), is in work and earning the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week. Check if you are eligible for 30 hours’ free childcare.

Free childcare for 2-year-olds
There are cases where free childcare can be offered to under 2’s which usually starts from the term after your child’s second birthday. Check if your 2-year- old is eligible for free childcare.

Child Tax Credit / Universal Credit
Depending on your income and situation, Child Tax Credit/Universal Credit can help you with the monthly cost of all Ofsted registered childcare including registered nurseries and childminders as well as breakfast clubs or after school clubs.

Child Tax Credit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit (unless you have three or more children), so if you don’t already claim Child Tax Credit you can apply for financial support for childcare by applying for Universal Credit. If you already claim Tax Credit, provide an update to your claim once you start working to find out if you are eligible for additional support with childcare costs. For more information on Universal Credit, read our article ‘Universal Credit: What’s it all about?’

Before you start working it is a good idea to find out if/how much financial support you may be eligible to when you start working. To make quick and easy calculations and experiment with different scenarios you can find out the best work and childcare option for you with this Tax Credit calculator.

If you have children under the age of 5 and prefer the idea of more familiar setting for childcare, a childminder could be a good option for you. This type of childcare takes place in a small setting within the childminder’s home that offers a more home away from home feeling. Childminders accept childcare vouchers and also offer the 15 or 30 hour free childcare options. To qualify for free hours or to make a claim for Child Tax Credit it’s important to note that the child minder must be Ofsted registered. Find qualified and Ofsted accredited child minders.

Private nurseries
There are many private nurseries available that can offer childcare and can accept childcare vouchers for 15/30 hours. Private nurseries can be more flexible with hours and some offer 15 hours spread over less than 5 days. Find private nurseries in your area.

Nursery School
Many schools have a nursery linked to them and can offer places for children aged 3-4. Nurseries linked to schools can help children transition to a school environment more easily, however their hours are less flexible than private nurseries and usually your child would either attend the morning sessions or the afternoon sessions. This can be a problem if you work full days however there are many childminders who drop off and pick up from nurseries. Find nursery schools in your area.

After School Club / Breakfast Club for 5-year-olds+
Once your children are of primary school age, you will find that many schools run their own breakfast clubs and after school clubs within the school premises. Breakfast clubs generally open at 8am and after school clubs generally stay open until 6pm allowing parents to work full days and drop/pick-up their children before and afterwards.

In addition to this, many childminders often offer a service to take school aged children to school and pick them up afterwards as an alternative to breakfast clubs or after school clubs.