If you qualify for Working Tax Credits then you may also be eligible for additional tax credits to help cover the cost of childcare. In order to qualify you must work a certain number of hours, be responsible for the child and the child must be cared for by a registered or approved childminder or setting such as a school, playgroup or club.
Tax credits won't cover the full cost of your childcare but may cover up to £122.50 for one child per week, or £210 for two children.The entitlement depends on your own earnings and how long you have been paying for childcare.
You can claim childcare tax credits at any time simply by phoning the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900. Make sure also to report any changes in your circumstances because failure to do so could lead to money being clawed back at a later date.
While Nannies, Childminders and Au Pairs are all there to help look after your children, the terms of engagement are very different, and that is what distinguishes the different roles.
A Nanny is paid to come into your house and help look after the children. A nany has set hours and will generally work to a routine, but usually only looks after your children, possibly alongside her own. You effectively employ a nanny and they have certain employment rights, including the ability to take paid maternity leave.
A childminder is someone who you pay to look after your children in their own setting. They may pick children up from your home or from school, you usually have set hours and may be responsible for paying additional for any overtime incurred. They will usually be OFSTED registered and inspected, and will look after a children from various families, often of varying age groups.
An au pair is someone who looks after your children, usually in return for board and lodging and a small amount of 'pocket money' (typically less than £100 per week). Au Pair's are usually foreign nationals and often young women and men taking a 'gap year' before or after higher education and are generally looking to spend some time in this country and improve their language skills. In addition to working an agreed number of hours looking after children, they may do light housework and other chores such as cooking meals. Usually an au pair is a 'live in' position so you must have a spare room for them to live in, and you must share bathroom and kitchen facilities as required.
You will generally have a contract in place for each of these types of role, and you should look at insurance cover to make sure that they are covered for the work they do for you. All may look after children of all ages, including babies, although they are restricted by law as to how many children of different age group they may look after at once. Therefore, for practical reasons, not all child carers have the necessary space to take on your children, and they may focus on offering services to children of a specific age or attending certain settings or schools.
Research has shown that children benefit more from childcare when their parents are involved.
This research has proved that parents who take an active interest in their children's childcare, reap the benefits. And, the children of parents who get involved settle better and progress more quickly.
This is not to say that parents need to go in and help once a week at nursery or donate lots of funds. It simply means trying to do the following:
- trying to understand what activities your child is doing when at nursery or with the childminder
- finding out what topics are being studied and chat about them together at home
- speaking to the childminder and keeping in touch with progress and development
- sharing with the childminder what your child has enjoyed at home or outings they have had at the weekend
- keeping an eye on your child's Daily Diary and sharing it with them
- looking and enjoying the arts and crafts your child come home with... perhaps trying them for yourselves at home
The Childcare Trust suggests arranging a daily diary for your child as it is a great idea to monitor and share activities and events. For a great, easy to use on-line Daily Diary (and a great activities-based learning programme for 0-5s) go to ToucanLearn.com for a free trial!
A recent survey by the Daycare Trust shows that over half of nurseries in London have seen a fall in demand over the past year. This appears to be part of a wider picture of falling demand for childcare and will be of particular concern to nursery providers. As the economy continues to face uncertain times, more and more mothers are choosing not to return to work after having babies, and that is one factor fueling the fall in demand for childcare places.
Rising childcare costs (more than twice the rate of inflation over the last year) are forcing many mothers to ditch work and look after young family themselves. The average cost of childcare in England is £5,028 a year, rising to over £6,000 a year in London. This is income that has already been taxed, and the cost of putting more than one child into childcare just becomes eye-watering!
Increasingly, at the moment, mothers are leaving work to raise their children at home.
On top of this, nursery providers have found that their costs are rising fast too, which is the main contributing factor to the rising cost of nursery places. Rent rates have jumped hugely over the last few years, but so have many of their other costs including food, staff training and all the essential supplies needed by a nursery. It seems that as the economy has suffered over the last few years, the global reaction has just been to raise prices for goods and services to make up for slump in demand. This isn't going to hold much longer - something is going to break. The logical conclusion of this spiral of rising prices pushing down demand is that we will see nurseries closing and nursery chains going out of business.
This isn't all bad news for private childminders. The additional costs of nursery provision will see a move towards more flexible childminders, with lower associated costs, so we predict a boom in private childcare provision over the next few years. We are also seeing more babies being nurtured by their own families in their domestic setting, and that too has to be a good thing. Whilst nurseries and childcare offer a wonderful service, allowing families to continue working, there is a lot to be said for not having to have two incomes simply to live from day to day. Families that choose to stay home and raise children may have to cut back in some areas, but the marginal difference of a second salary after tax and childcare is making the 'stay at home' option look increasingly attractive!
What overall considerations should I have to find the perfect Nanny for my family?
Looking for a Nanny for your family does not have to be a struggle. Below are 6 points to hopefully help you make the process easier.
1: Think about your ideal nanny. Write a list of your expectations. What personality and experience you would like your Nanny to have? What duties you would like her to do, for example Nursery duties only or light household duties. Write your requirements down - including "required" and "Would like", use this when you are interviewing as a guideline. Work out what you can afford for a nanny so when you discuses salary with the Nanny you have an idea what you can afford.
2: Look at what avenues you are going to go down to look for a nanny. Are you going to use a Nanny Agency, advertising in a local Newspaper, ask friends and family if they know of any good Nannies or search on the internet? More and more families are using the Internet to find Childcare as they are finding it is a much cheaper alternative. All the above have advantages and disadvantages, but all have the same objective: to help you compile a list of potential Nannies.
3: Make contact with potential candidates. Once you have got your list of potential candidates, you will need to find out weather they are interested and suitability for the position. First contact might be by phone or email not face to face. Once you have made contact and asked some question and are satisfied by the answers, you will need to arrange an interview date.
4: Interview date. Don’t forget your list of "required" and "would like". You will need to make a list of questions you would like to ask a Nanny, (Totally Childcare has got a list of question to ask when interviewing a nanny). Most families prefer to do the first interview in the evening when the child/children are in bed and if they like the Nanny then call her back for a second interview, this is normally done over the weekend to meet the children and spend some time together to see how they interact with each other.
5: Checking Reference and CRB (Police Checks). It is highly recommend that you check at least two references, one from the current employment if they are working as a nanny at present and one from a past employment. If they have not got two employment references for you to contact then a character reference will do. A CRB (police check) needs to be done, this can take up to 4/6 weeks to complete. Most nannies have got this already but if this is out of date a new one will need to be done.
6: Employing your chosen Nanny! Once you have found the right Nanny and offered the position and she has accepted the finer details will need to be put down in a Contract of Employment (Totally Childcare has got a standard Employment Contract which you can download and use). This will need to be signed by both parties and each have a copy to keep. Most families have a hand over period before they go back to work; this is so the Nanny can get to know the child/children while mum or dad is still around. It also helps the nanny to see what routine the children have and if they got to school they can be shown where this is and be introduced to their teacher. Contact numbers will need to be given to the new nanny in case of an emergency. A diary for the nanny is a good idea, here she can write down what the child/children have done during the day, what they have eaten and if they have had or not had a dirty nappy etc. This can be helpful for the parents to read when the Nanny has gone home and answer any questions if the child/children is not too happy in the evening. A purse with some money in it for use during the day for the children’s activities is also a good idea, receipts should be provided so there is no confusion as to what they have spent the money on.
If you can remember all of the above steps than hopefully finding a Nanny will be an easy process.
Sending your child to a childminder or nursery may actually help them in later life, according to a recent study. Many working parents hesitate before sending their children to a carer, wondering how the separation will effect the child in later life. However, according to one academic it does them good to be away from home for a few hours! So, parents working long hours need not worry. Mothers returning to work, need not feel guilty!
The Professor in charge of the study claims that those children who were in a cared for environment aged 2 and under, do actually go on to form better relationships later on when at school. She said that nursery does the vast majority no harm at all. Previous studies had concluded that children who were not at home most of the time when under 2 turned out to be more agressive when attending school, were more difficult to disipline and more inclined to be naughty and lead others astray. But this new research disputes that, stating that this doesn't appear be the case.
The study followed 3,000 children over a 14 year period from 1996. Parents have welcomed the findings, many of whom had believed earlier studies which suggested that there was a link between attendance at a nursery and aggression in later life, plus impaired social skills.
Of course, there are various ways of ensuring your child is in the best possible setting. Speak to other parents - get their opinion and recommendations. Check thoroughly the standards of care whether it be a nursery or childminder. Drop in, unannounced, and see what is going on!
A childminder is a person (male or female) who looks after other people's children in the childminder's own home. The children can be aged from birth up to eight years old. The childminder looks after the children for more than 2 hours a day and is rewarded (usually in the form of money) for the service. If the person is looking after a relative (a grandchild or niece) it is not considered childminding.
Registered with Ofsted
All childminders by law have to be registered and assessed by Ofsted to meet all the requirements and standards set out by Government. The requirements refer to the safety of the premises, the facilities on offer, the suitability of the childminder to care for children, the play and learning opportunities. In addition, insurance provisions and business records are assessed. Checks are also made on all of the other members of the household.
How many children can a childminder look after?
There is a limit on the number of children a childminder can look after. A total of 6 children (including the childminder's own children) is the maximum. Of these, only 3 may be under school age, and only 1 may be under 1 year old. A childminder may have excemption that varies from this if for example they are asked to look after twins or triplets, but their certificate will lay down how many children they may care for at once, and they must display their certificate, in their home, whilst they are acting as a childminder.
How To Find A Childminder?
Word of mouth is a great way of finding a childminder. Friends, colleagues, other parents may have some good suggestions. Alternatively, contact your local Family Information Service for a list of childminders in your area.
There are also agencies and websites that list local vacancies and have a chat to your local Sure Start Centre for some ideas of local vacancies.
How To Choose A Childminder?
Visit a number of settings and talk about any questions you have. Mention your precise needs and make notes before you go if there is anything in particular you don't want to forget to ask.
How Much Is A Childminder?
Childminders are all self-employed and are responsible for their own income, expenses, equipment, tax and national insurance. They set their own rates and charges will therefore vary. You will need to discuss rates and agree the cost with your childminder.
You must sign a contract with your childminder stating:
- Overtime rates
- Non-attendance rates
- Notice period to leave
The contract should be signed by you and your childminder, dated and each of you should have a copy to keep.
Top Tips To Help Choose A Childminder:
- Take your child along and see how they react or settle in the childminder's setting
- Always go to a registered childminder
- Ask to see their registration and assessment documents
- Check their insurance
- Look closely at the areas your child will be based. Are there plug covers, no loose wires or cables? Is furniture in good condition and safe-looking? Are carpets clean and safely fitted? Is it fun and colourful?
- Are there lots of books and toys around?
- Do children there look happy, stimulated and busy?
- Ask about numbers of children and who else will be there?
- Ask about a typical day, about outings, about toddler groups or clubs they will go to
- Ask about discipline and how bad behaviour is dealt with
- Check emergency plans and risk assessments
- Ask about other playgroups and school runs the children do
- Discuss food, snacks and drinks; check the price for meal provision, how and where the food is served and the typical menu
- What are the payment terms for holidays, sick pay, overtime ?
- What happens when the childminder is sick or what if your child is sick?
- Enquire how often and in what form payment should be made
- Ask about pets and other people in the house. Can you meet them too?
The law is always changing and new legislation comes in often without us noticing, so when something changes that effects time off with your children, it's worth making sure everyone knows about it! In January the Government made some changes to paternity leave which means that fathers can take up to six months off work as paternity leave.
The new legislation gives Dads the option to stay at home and be the primary child carer while the mother returns to work and it is applicable for babies born after 3 April 2011. It will mean that Dads can have up to three months, paid paternity leave and that they can in addition take a further three months of unpaid paternity leave. That is brilliant for all Dads who are keen to share in the workload and care of new babies. This change will suit families where the Mum wants to go back to work because she might be earning a bigger salary than the father.
This is such a positive move to promote a new and modern approach to family life as new mothers as well as fathers can decide to spend so much more time with their little babies than if they were forced back to work. Naturally, it's not going to be as financially enticing as maternity leave, the paternity leave wage is only for a short period and is unlikely to be as high as an actual wage, but it still gives mothers and fathers an option.
As election fever grips the UK, the various political parties are suggesting more changes that they will make to maternity and paternity rights - there's no telling where we'll be in a few years from now!
What rights do new Fathers have?
Paternity Leave: available if you are an employee and are taking the time off to support the mother and care for the child. You must be the biological father, child's adopter, husband or partner of the mother or the child's adopter. Dads currently get 2 weeks paternity leave - but this will change for babies born from next year when 3 months will be the legal maximum with an option to extend with unpaid leave for a further 3 months.
Paternity Pay: currently £124.88 per week or 90% of your average weekly salary if it's less than this.
Time off for anti-natal appointments: are not allowed unless you have a particularly helpful employer. It's worth asking!
Time off to help out after the paternity leave period has been used: you'll have to take unpaid leave or holiday but it's worth asking as many employers are flexible and do try to support new families.
If you fancy becoming a childminder, here are a few qualities that childminders need in varying quantities and on various days!
Must Like children! It sounds obvious but it is absolutely essential that childminders like children. The idea of spending day after day with them should inspire a childminder rather than fill him or her with horror!
Safety conscious: Provide a safe and stimulating environment for children to play and learn. Rid the house of all possible safety hazards. Be hygienic and offer a clean place for children to spend their days.
Encouraging: Tempt and encourage children to take part and do activities and be sensitive to different children's needs.
Creative: Able to provide ideas for crafts and show the child how to do carry it out. Join us at ToucanLearn for lots of great ideas!
Patient: Have a calm approach to teaching and demonstrating activities.
Love the outdoors: Take children on outings and adventures to the park and in the outdoors.
Willing: ...to undertake the unattractive side of looking after children: such a dealing with dirty nappies and spills and mess.
A good cook - preparing hearty, wholesome and fresh food and snacks.
Good communicator: With children and adults too. A childminder needs to communicate with children of all ages in a calm and assuring way. All sorts of basic, but vital information needs to be shared between the parent and the childminder's setting.
Caring: They need to understand any fears and deal with any problems in a caring fashion.
Fit: It's physically and mentally demanding so health and fitness is essential.
Have business acumen: A child-minder is self employed and therefore needs to submit all the legal and tax documents that that entails.
If anyone ever queries why childminders are now trained and examined by OFSTED; or if someone asks why a childminder's rate is so much higher than a baby-sitter, just reel off a few of the personal requirements needed by childminders and there's your answer! And, I am sure the list goes on...
Anyone think of any other things you need to be a childminder? Perhaps (in the nicest possible way) a tiny bit crazy?!
For more ideas about what to do with children tell all the childminders about ToucanLearn!
The Government has announced that childcare arrangements made between friends will no longer be legally required to be Ofsted registered and inspected. The Children's Minster, Dawn Primarolo said the rule change would be confirmed in April this year which will mean that friends who share the childcare of each other's children won't have to answer to Ofsted, as if they were professional childcare settings such as childminders or nurseries.
Ms Primarolo claimed she was pleased with the result as it ensured "hardworking parents are not penalised for supporting their friends with unpaid childcare."
The confusion arose when two policewomen, Leanne Shepherd and Lucy Jarrett from Buckinghamshire, who worked on a part time basis, looked after each other's children when they were not working. It was a friendly, non-financial arrangement which meant both women could work without worrying about the the costs of childcare. They simply shared the childcare. Ofsted were told about the arrangement and they decreed the women should register as childminders which included all the professional training, checks, inspections and guidelines that professional childminders have to go through.
This daft situation arose when a piece of ill-planned legislation was introduced in 2006 which required anyone looking after children for 'reward', excluding between 6pm and 2am, on more than 14 occasions a year, and who was not related to the children, were deemed to be offering childcare services and were therefore subject to childcare control. In this case, Ofsted interpreted the fact that by swapping childcare between themselves in order to allow them to return to work, the two police mothers in question were therefore gaining 'reward' and therefore were subject to the legislation. Whilst the 2006 Childcare Act is generally an important piece of legislation aimed at protecting children whilst in the custody of professional carers, it gave no credence to informal arrangements between friends.
The amendment to the Childcare Act 2006 will change the guidelines offered by Ofsted which will detail when childcare is deemed "formal" and thus within their remit.
The proposed changes were put to parents, child carers and children's organisations in a consultation last December 2009. The majority of those consulted replied in favour of the amendments. Public outcry and a petition on the No. 10 website made clear the people's feeling on the matter!
Many Mums are convinced that their baby or toddler should be cared for by them and them alone. Childminders, Nannies, even professional nurseries just wouldn't do a good enough job. However, that may be the case when babies are tiny and completely reliant on Mum for all food and comfort, but its worth thinking about the great benefits of offering your little one a bit of time away from you once you feel confident about having a few hours away from each other now and then.
The benefits of having a bit of time for yourself are obvious: perhaps an uninterrupted nap, a luxurious, candle-lit bubble bath or a trip to the shops to buy a new frock. Having a bit of time to focus on yourself is important.
The benefits to your little toddler are many. It's a great chance for them to socialise with other children of a similar age and to have a bit of time watching and learning from them. Having some time in a safe, professional establishment or with a trained carer is a good idea because the environment and activities will be appropriate for our little one's age. They also are likely to get to do things you don't do: perhaps do mucky things like big paintings with hands and feet or kiddie cooking or yoga or learn a new language!
Children aged 3-4 in the UK are entitled to at least 12.5 hours of free childcare per week. Any extra to this may be cheaper than you think - help is available through tax credits. If you work more than 16 hours a week, you may even be entitled to 80% of the cost of childcare back!
So, while Mum is always best in some cases, its worth looking in to a bit of childcare now and again for both you and your little one's sake, because there are plenty of reasons why Mum deserves a bit of time to herself!
For some, grandparents are a vital form of childcare, but do they provide the right kind of environment for our babies and toddlers, and,should they be paid?
There are many advantages to using grandparents:
- They love your child as much as you do so want to do a good job
- Your baby or child will get to know the grandparent even better and develop a strong bond because they will be spending time alone with them... something both the grandparent and child will cherish
- A grandparent has already had children so knows from experience
- They may live close by so its will be an easy drop off
- They may be more flexible about hours and whether to have the child if a bit poorly
- The child will settle more quickly because they know the carer
- They may be more easygoing if you are delayed or be prepared to drop off/collect from nursery/school
- They may be happy to have your child's friends round to play
- It may be cheap or even free childcare!
However, there are some disadvantages too:-
- The grandparent did their child care many years ago so may do things differently to you or may have forgotten a lot!
- They may be too old and find it physically too demanding but may not admit it
- They may have appointments or commitments already
- Their attitudes may need updating about what's allowed in terms of potty training and naps
- You may need to transport equipment and toys each time or buy two sets: high chairs, travel cot and buggy etc.
- Their home may be unsafe and have lots of potential dangers., and will not be OFSTED registered and checked
- They may not take the child out as much as a professional organisation and therefore your child may not meet children and socialise
You may wish to formalise an agreement for the care provided to your child and make clear details such as time off and holidays etc. You may even agree to pay a fee for the care. There are organisations dedicated to advising on this area such as The Grandparents' Association or Grandparents Plus.
Are grandparents being overlooked in what is perhaps a vital form of childcare fore babies, toddlers and young children? Responding to a report published by Grandparents Plus calling for direct payments for Grandparents providing childcare for their grandchildren, Daycare Trust joint Chief Executive Alison Garnham said: "Grandparents should be recognised for the role they play providing invaluable childcare, but introducing direct payments would require a process involving registration, auditing and inspection, and I don't think anyone wants to see Government inspectors in their living room scrutinising their family life. "If there is money available for childcare then it should be spent on meeting the Government's pledge to increase the free childcare entitlement to 15 hours per week for 3 and 4 year olds and extend the entitlement to all 2 year olds".
If you think its right for you you should consider:
- Is the grandparents fit enough and in good health to run around after children?
- Do they have first-aid knowledge or qualification
- Is the house safe?
- Does it fit in with existing commitments?
If the answer is yes, to all these questions, lucky you!