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.

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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: these can be at a nursery, playgroup or even with a childminder. Contact your local Children’s Information Service for details and whether you are eligible.

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).

Finding childcare

Looking for reliable childcare is not always easy as there can be a lot of choice available. Visit www.childcare.co.uk as they have local listings of childminders, nurseries, babysitters and more. 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) offers free help and advice to parents looking for home-based childcare providers. 

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.
  • 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 using an online benefits calculator. Click here for more information. 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 also speak to Turn2Us for impartial advice as they help people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help – online, by phone and face to face.

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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