When I was originally asked to write this article on the theme of “doing more with less”, the first thing that sprang to mind, given that I am a mother of three children, was getting the most you can where childcare is concerned. It’s never been more relevant than now when most families are feeling the pinch of continuously increasing childcare costs whilst trying to manage their careers at the same time.
As working parents it’s very hard to be the best you can be both at work and at home. Looking after children can be a source of major stress in many families but if you have the right child care in place at the right price than at least some of that pressure is lifted. If that support is also coming from the people that you work with, this can be a major benefit in managing working parents’ stress levels.
The first thing you need to do is establish the amount of care that you really need. Why should you pay for full time childcare such as a nanny if your child spends some of those hours at nursery or at school? When you’re considering childcare, also think about school holidays. For 12 weeks of the year your needs will be very different so pre-plan for that. It may be that you can use after school clubs during term time but during the holidays you need more support at home which is where a temporary nanny might come in, or even a nanny share with another family. A nanny share can reduce the cost by as much as half if you don’t mind the nanny looking after both families’ children at the same time. Please note that it is not a wise idea for the sake of your children for a nanny to look after more than 3 children under the age 3 years or 4 children over the age of 3 years. There are up front issues to tackle with regards salary and tax as well as general expenses and you should have everything you have agreed with the other family in writing in case it goes wrong down the line.
Next, you need to look at all the possibilities. When we think of childcare the ones that normally come to mind are nurseries, nannies and child-minders but what about au-pairs, grandparents or friends with similar age children that might stay at home and be willing to help. These are all less expensive, if not free, options.
You don’t only have to look at one option. Combining care can reduce the costs dramatically, for example you could use a nursery three days a week, grandma one day and yourself, if you can work flexibly, on another or having a part-time nanny that top and tails with the school or nursery day could be right for you.
When looking at the financials you should make sure you are aware of all the options available to you. For example, do you understand how to get free nursery hours? The Government offers free childcare hours; 15 hours free nursery care weekly during term time to all children the term following their 3rd birthday; for those that meet the eligibility criteria there is also a possible 30 hours free available; plus depending on the family’s financial circumstances there is funding from the age of two. In addition there is the introduction of a Tax Free Childcare scheme to be able to pay Ofsted registered childcare.
At work, does your employer offer childcare vouchers? Both parents can participate in pre-tax voucher purchase schemes and use them for the same child which can be a major cost saving (but are only available to new entrants until October 2018). Does your employer also provide help in finding the right childcare? Having the search taken care of for you, can drastically reduce your stress levels and save you a lot of time and money.
None of these solutions are a one size fits all, every family situation is different. The key point is to really understand your needs and take some time to find the best and most cost-effective solution for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t understand the options or where to source what you need.
Parental Choice can help and guide you on the right childcare for you. We can also find it for you. To find out more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 8979 6453.