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Childcare Solutions - Tips and Advice on Finding the Right Childcare

  • Childcare Vouchers - Government voucher scheme  - save up to £1195/year on the cost of childcare.
  • Daycare Trust - National Childcare Charity
  • Direct.gov.uk - advice on choosing child care
  • Direct.gov.uk - search tool to find child minders, nurseries, primary and secondary schools using your post code
  • Emergency Childcare - do you need to find childcare in a hurry? Emergency Childcare is the only organisation in the UK that gives you the opportunity to book local nursery and childminder places or an emergency nanny on a flexible, ad hoc or daily basis.
  • National Day Nurseries Association - a national charity - lots of info

Choosing Childcare - Questions to Ask

from The National Childcare Campaign - daycare trust

These are just some of the questions you should ask when visiting a childcare provider. You will also need to think about the things that matter to you and your child and make sure you ask about them too.

Vacancies and costs

  • Are there vacancies - is there a waiting list and if so how long?
  • Do you have to pay a deposit? If so, what's it for? Is it returnable?
  • How much does the setting charge per hour/day?
  • Do you have to pay for holidays/meals/nappies/other activities?
  • Do they offer a settling in period? If so, how long for?

Staffing and premises

  • What is the ratio of staff to children? How many children do they care for?
  • Do they operate a key (named) worker system?
  • How will they keep you informed about your child's progress?
  • What opportunities are there for you to be involved?
  • What is staff turnover like?
  • How well qualified are the staff?
  • Are all the criminal records checks up to date?
  • Is there plenty of outdoor space?
  • Can you see a copy of the registration certificates and inspection reports for the setting?

Activities and support

  • What are the daily routines and how can they incorporate your child's and other children's routines?
  • Where can your child sleep or rest?
  • What if your child is unhappy? How would they be looked after?
  • What are their policies on discipline and how do they manage children's behaviour?
  • How will your child's dietary requirements be accommodated?
  • What systems do they have in place if a child has a severe food allergy?
  • How will your child's cultural background be reflected and respected?
  • Are there staff members from different backgrounds? Do they have books and activities representing all cultures? What about food/music/religious festivals?

Emergencies

  • What happens if your child is sick?
  • What happens if you are delayed picking your child up at the end of the day?
  • How will they contact you in an emergency?

Benefit from the outcomes of childcare.

Childcare can be very beneficial for both children and parents. It can help children to develop more effectively, giving them a better start in life, and can open up opportunities for parents and carers allowing them to work, train or study. Make sure you're not missing out!

Find out about local childcare.

If you want to find out what childcare is available in your area, you can contact your local Family Information Service (FIS) or search for services on Family And Childcare Trust's Family Information Directory (FID). There is a FIS in each local authority area and their function is to provide information to parents, carers and others about local childcare and family services.

Both the FIS and the FID hold details of all registered childcare providers in your area, including nurseries, childminders, playgroups and more and depending on the service offered, may be able to find childcare arrangements that are suitable for you.

Think about your childcare needs during holidays.

You may find that you need to use additional childcare during the holiday times, such as the long summer break, especially if you have school-aged children. With the summer holidays approaching, if you want to use a holiday playscheme make sure you look into these as soon as you can, as places can often get booked up quickly. Your local Family Informaion Service (see above) will have details of local schemes.

Remember that your childcare costs may alter through the year.

If you are claiming Working Tax Credit and your childcare costs change by £10 or more per week for at least 4 weeks in a row, your tax credit award is likely to change. Any changes to your childcare costs - or other circumstances that affect your Tax Credits claim, for example, income - should be reported to the Tax Credit office within 30 days to avoid overpayments of Tax Credits. Contact the Tax Credit Helpline on 0845 300 3900.

Don't miss out on free childcare.

If your child is 3- or 4-years old, they are eligible for a free part-time early years place of at least 15 hours a week in England and 10 hours a week in Wales. In some areas, certain two-year olds are also entitled to free early years places. To find out about places and to see if you live in a pilot area, contact your local Family Information Service (see above).

Share the cost.

Some parents share childcare with family members or friends. This applies especially to parents who use nannies, which can be an expensive form of childcare. But remember, you can only claim help with childcare costs if your nanny is registered on the Voluntary Ofsted Childcare Register in England (seewww.ofsted.gov.uk for information).

Make sure it is suitable.

It is important that the childcare you choose meets your own, and your children's, needs. For an idea of the type of questions you should think of asking when visiting potential childcare providers, see Finding and Choosing Childcare.

You can also call our Information Line on 0845 872 6251 to discuss your childcare options.

Start looking early!

Many parents are able to find suitable childcare as soon as they need it, but for others it may take several months of searching before you can find somewhere that accommodates both your own and your child's needs. Give yourself enough time to research, seek advice from other parents and check registration certificates and references.

Time to settle in.

Your child may take some time to settle into any new childcare setting that you start them in, so allow them time to adjust to their new surroundings, especially if this is their first time in childcare. Remember that most childcarers, such as childminders, will offer a ‘settling in period', where you have an agreed length of time to assess whether the setting is the right one for your child and that they are happy there.

 

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