If like me you have a headache at the thought of where your children will be and with whom over the summer holidays, then the added thought of the soaring cost of school holiday childcare will have you joining me in a darkened room for a lie-down!
Unfortunately, here in the South East we are unsurprisingly facing a summer of paying the highest holiday childcare across the UK. According to the Coram Family & Childcare 15th Annual Holiday Childcare Survey, the average cost of holiday childcare in the UK has increased 3% year on year, with costs in the South East an average of £162 per week. Across the country, the picture is equally bleak. With costs in the North West being the lowest at an average of £119 per week, and the North East, just next door is 21% higher at £144.
The average cost is £138 per week, which is double what working parents are paying during term-time to cover the hours outside of school.
As a working parent if you are having to cover six weeks full-time you will need to find an average of an extra £484 per child. When you add this to the costs of your family holiday and other summer treats it is going to be a very expensive summer.
If your child attends an independent school, your holidays are even longer, and while there maybe an argument that if you can afford school fees, then holiday care should be affordable, but is this the case? Some parents opt for independent education for their children because overall it is more cost effective when considered against the option of state education and wraparound childcare, which can be expensive, difficult to find and inflexible. Affording school fees is one thing but adding upwards of £1500 per child for a ten-week summer holiday may be hard to swallow.
Is there a solution?
There is a Government policy which was launched in 2016 which allows parents a ‘right to request’ schools to provide childcare or open their facilities to providers to do so on their premises. Only 4% of local authorities say this has had a positive effect on the availability of holiday provision. Perhaps lobbying our schools to work more closely with providers will bring the costs down?
Here at Parental Choice we are advocates of long-term childcare planning and budgeting. We suggest creating a network of care for your children and when budgeting, making sure the costs are weighed-up fairly – many families deduct the costs of childcare from a mother’s salary, when in reality the childcare is allowing BOTH parents to work, so should it not be a joint financial consideration?
Our ideas, to reduce the costs of school holiday childcare include considering:
Are there willing grandparents, aunties or uncles who will have your little ones? Even just one day can be a big help, or maybe you are one of the lucky ones who have hands-on grandparents who offer regular ‘sleepovers’ at nanna’s?
A favourite of mine! I look after my kids’ best friends while their parents are at work, then the next day they spend the day at their house. If you work part-time and can do this, it is potentially another day per week can be ticked off your list!
Share your annual leave
It is very often mum who bears the mental load of planning care and responsibility for taking time-off to look after the kids. Why not encourage your partner to take some annual leave so they can spend some quality time with the kids? I have a friend whose partner takes a week off and he and the kids head to Devon for a week of dad camping where the ‘mum rules’ are left at home. There are obviously costs associated with going away, but could Dad stay home and create fun?
Local authority-run schemes
Many local authorities will arrange more cost-effective schedules of activities for school-aged children. Most are based either at a school or local leisure facility. The days are long and the costs slightly subsidised, but beware, they book up fast, so you need to be quick.
Make sure they have friends there
For my children, summer camps are to be endured rather than enjoyed (they’d rather be at home moaning they are bored – go figure!), so creating plans with their friends always help. It can also make transport easier – lift sharing may give you the chance to get in the office early and leave early? Create a spreadsheet or calendar of care and share it among friends. It will be amazing how quickly others will book their kids into the same sessions.
Will your company allow you to temporarily change your hours? You will need to give notice and create a business case for the changes, but you maybe able to compress your hours so you don’t need to be in the office so often? Can you start earlier and finish sooner in order to reduce ‘camp-time’ for the children and take advantage of cheaper half day care?
Unpaid parental leave
Most of us are entitled to take 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave, per child up to their 18th birthday. If you have more than one child, it could be worth considering if the cost of care outweighs your salary. You have to take full weeks of leave, there are eligibility criteria you need to meet and you need to give at least 21 days’ notice of your intention.
Personally, I am lucky that I don’t need full-time care during the school holidays, but it is all relative and finding activities to cover the days I do need, which will engage my kids (a 10-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy) and make them smile is incredibly hard, so when I find it, I, like many others, will be gritting my teeth (or grimacing) through the ‘pay now’ section of the website and updating my ever more complicated spreadsheet of care, then having another lie-down.
Parental Choice are childcare experts who can help you find the ideal long-term solution for your family. We can find you a nanny, nursery, childminder, au pair or school.
www.parentalchoice.co.uk | 020 8979 6453 | email@example.com