What are your childcare options?

Whether you’re returning to work, starting a course or just feel its time for them to interact with other children, finding suitable childcare is going to be a big decision for you, and one which depends on your family’s personal needs and circumstances. There are different types of childcare available, you need to go over all the options and decide which form will work the best for you and your child’s needs.

For babies and up

Childminders: self-employed childcarers who will look after your child, as well as other children, probably in their own home

Day nurseries: provide care and education for children aged from six weeks up to five years old.

Children's centres: providing services for families and children from pregnancy up to the age of five.

Nannies: employed by you, and look after your children in your home.

For toddlers and up

Free part-time placements: children aged three and four are entitled to free part-time places (through the Nursery Education Grant). These can be at a nursery, playgroup or even with a childminder. Contact your local Children’s Information Service for details.

Nursery schools and classes: provide early education, from ages three to five years. These placements can be full-time or half-day sessions.

Playgroups: a not-for-profit group organised by the community or voluntary group, which provides care and usually early education.

School-based childcare: activities and childcare are provided before and after school, and during school holidays (play schemes). Usually open from 8am (breakfast club), closing at 6pm (after-school club).

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Finding childcare

The Children’s Information Services (CIS) hold lists of registered childcare providers (nurseries, childminders, etc). To get in touch with your local CIS, contact ChildcareLink on 0800 096 0296 or visit their website www.childcarelink.gov.uk Another good way of sourcing childcare is by asking other parents/carers who they use for their children – this way you get a personal recommendation from the people who know best.

Keep in mind that what worked for them may not be the most suitable route for your children, and always ask for references from the provider if you’re unsure. The National Childminding Association (NCMA) offersfree help and advice to parents looking for home-based childcare providers. Their free helpline number is 0845 880 0044. NCMA have produced a film and leaflet to illustrate the benefits of choosing home-based childcare using a registered childminder. Click here to watch the film.

Useful Contacts

  • Contact a Family Charity providing support and advice to parents of children with a disability (of any kind). Has factsheets on the website about the issues faced by parents seeking childcare for disabled children.
  • Daycare Trust National childcare charity, have a childcare hotline for parents providing advice and information. Childcare Hotline: 020 7840 3350.
  • Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) For serious complaints and/or concerns about any registered childcare provision. Inspection reports can also be read on the website. Helpline: 0845 640 4040.
  • Tax Credit Helpline You may be eligible for help with childcare costs. Provides information on Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. Tax Credit helpline: 0854 300 3900.

Free benefit advice

Want free advice about benefits? Get tailor-made information for yourself, family or friends online with the new Benefits Adviser from Directgov. Enter your information anonymously about your savings, earnings and outgoings and receive an estimate of benefits, tax credits or pension you may be entitled to. You can save your results for up to seven days and download or print your results for future reference. Get started now here

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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