One of the biggest concerns that parents face today is childcare and more specifically what is going to be best for their child when they as parents must return to work. Leaving your precious child with another person is stressful enough, more so if that individual is not known to you personally.
However, most parents do not have a choice, and despite the cost of childcare, going out to work is just a necessity of life. On the other hand, there are others who love their jobs and do not want to have to give it up after having a child. It is all about balancing work and home life and finding the right childcare to suit their individual needs and circumstances.
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Types of Childcare
Some parents are fortunate to have family members willing to take on the responsibility of looking after the children when they are out working. Furthermore, finding the best childcare providers and support in the UK can be a challenge, particularly for those looking for the first time.
Fortunately, there is plenty to choose from when it comes to children’s care in this country. Across the UK, there are many organisations and facilities that offer childcare where your child will be safe, happy, and secure while you are working. You will have a choice of group-based or one-on-one care, and the option you choose will depend entirely on your preferences in terms of how your child is taken care of. Below are a few examples of the options available:
A nanny is employed to come to your home and take care of your child on a one-to-one basis. Nannies tend to work within the home, taking care of all aspects of the child’s welfare, including preparing meals.
Throughout the UK, registered childminders work from their own homes caring for small numbers of children from different families. These childminders will be fully trained, self-employed individuals who can care for your child along with other children.
Nurseries tend to take pre-school children, but there are some who look after school-aged children before and after school. Most nurseries are open from 8.00am until 6.00pm to help working parents, while some operate transport to and from school for older children.
What to Look for in a Childcare Provider
Finding the right provider is a challenge for many parents, who want to ensure that their child is happy and safe when not with them. It is important that the child feels comfortable and secure in his or her childcare environment and it is also important that parents are happy with the arrangement.
Most parents want to know that their child will be well cared for while at the same time is in an environment that encourages learning and development. Nevertheless, how can you be sure that the provider of care that you choose is the right one? What should you be looking for?
In the UK, all providers of children’s care, be it nurseries, childminders, or nannies, must be registered and inspected by the relevant bodies in their region. In England this is The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), in Wales "The Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales" (CSSIW), and in Scotland the Care Inspectorate.
Before you decide on a provider, it is wise to do your research to find out what others have to say about their own experiences. Word of mouth can also be a terrific way to find a good childcare provider.
If you do not know anyone who can provide you with a recommendation, it is a good idea to visit several different providers. Many parents will get a good feeling from a provider and it will be this that helps them to make their final decision. A quality provider of care for kids will have no problem showing you around and talking you through all aspects of the type of care they provide. You can also check their food menus and facilities at the same time.
There are several things you can look for that will help to give you peace of mind when your child is not in your care:
- Whether the environment is clean and tidy
- Whether there is a good security system in place
- Whether you can access the facility by anyone other than a staff member
- Whether children in the facility seem happy and comfortable
- What type of activities are the children involved in
- Whether staff are engaging with children and responding to their needs
- Whether there is age-appropriate equipment both indoors and outdoors and, if there is, that this equipment is in good working order and free from damage.
Can You Get Help with the Cost of Childcare?
Childcare can be very expensive but help with the cost is available in certain situations. To be eligible for help with the cost, it must be provided by one of the following approved organisations:
- A registered childminder
- A registered nursery
- A registered play scheme
- A registered club
- A childminder who is with an Ofsted registered agency
- A home care worker who is with a registered home care agency
- A registered school.
If your child is aged three to four and you live in England, you are entitled to free childcare or early education. If you are in receipt of certain benefits, you may also be entitled to 15 hours of free care for your two-year-old child.
If you live in Scotland, you are entitled to up to 600 hours of childcare or early learning for your three-to-four-year-old child. This equates to around 16 hours per week during term time. Free places are also available for two-year-olds if you are in receipt of certain benefits.
There is also help available for Welsh parents in the form of various schemes. The Flying Start scheme offers help with the cost of care for children who live in disadvantaged communities. Other schemes in operation include the Foundation Phase and the Childcare Offer.
Some employers may also offer help with the cost or may provide on-site creches to make it easier for their employees to return to work. Some employers could recommend local childcare providers in return for discounted prices for their employees, while others could offer help in the form of vouchers.
An Easy Way to Find Childcare
Once you know what to look for in a provider, and when you have found out all you need to know about whether you are eligible for help with the costs, you can begin your search. You might want to start looking online for providers that are local to either your home or your place of work.
Some people prefer a provider close to home, particularly if their home is quite a distance away from where they work. Having a childcare provider closer to home means less travelling time for your child. This is especially important if the child is spending full days in a nursery, where he or she is likely to be very tired when collected.
On the flip side, if you regularly finish work late, you might want the comfort of knowing that your provider of children’s care is nearby so that you are not late collecting your child.
There are websites available where you can enter the type of provider of care you are looking for and the postcode of where you live. You can also advertise if you are looking for a nanny to come to your home. Creating a profile of your needs and circumstances allow providers to apply based on whether they believe they can meet those needs.
You can also find information on childcare providers on the reginal Governments’ websites. It is possible to find registered providers in your local area by providing the postcode of your home or work address. You may then be directed to your local council’s website for further information.
The Importance of Choosing Wisely
Although no parent would ever put the cost of care above the safety of their child, there are ways to ensure you get good quality care for your child without spending a small fortune. With the average cost of childcare in the UK standing at around £6,000 per year at the time of this writing, it is important to choose wisely.
Look around for good quality childcare but remember that the most expensive is not necessarily always the best. Ask people you know for recommendations and read reviews to find out what others are saying. You should also make sure you are fully informed about the various schemes available where you live and take time to speak to someone in your HR department to find out if there are any employee benefit schemes that could help with the cost.