According to statistics from the Family and Childcare Trust, working parents paid a total of £2.75 billion (the equivalent of £732 per child) for childcare in the summer of 2017. With childcare costs rising at twice the rate of inflation, the figure for this summer promises to be considerably higher. In this article, you’ll be able to read about:
- Where UK parents leave their children over the summer holidays
- Babysitting done by relatives
- Reciprocal arrangements with family and/or friends
- Changing your work schedule and patterns
- Holiday camps and play schemes
- Governmental financial help with summer childcare costs
Summer is coming, and parents need to start thinking about childcare provision for the long summer break, especially as many of the schemes need to be booked in plenty of time to guarantee a place. We first look at how British parents arranged their childcare in the summer of 2017, and weigh up the pros and cons of the options available to you. We pay particular attention to how you can reduce your childcare costs. Are you entitled to any help from the government?
Where do UK parents leave their children over the summer holidays?
According to statistics from the website thinkmoney, parents chose a number of different options when faced with the problem of childcare over the school summer holidays. They found:
- 43% relied on family members
- 12% relied on friends
- 37% had at least one parent at home
- 36% took some time off work
- 23% registered their children for paid childcare/summer activities
Many parents find that they can’t depend on one single person, or can’t afford to pay for all their childcare needs for the entire summer. Therefore, they use one or more of the above types of provision. Varying your provision from week to week requires the logistical skills of a military operation so the sooner you make your arrangements, the better. Let’s consider your options.
Babysitting done by family members
If you’re lucky enough to live near your family, then grandparents, aunts, etc. will usually be more than happy to spend time with your kids if they don’t work. Although the children won’t have the structured learning of a qualified childminder, they’ll be with people you trust. The only difficulty might be the problem of them being spoilt so you should be sure to set down ground rules about meals, TV, etc.
If you worry about the strain of relatives looking after the children, you could arrange that they spend only one day a week with them, for example. If the grandparents live far away from you, why not ask if they could have the kids for a week in total? Make sure you ask in plenty of time in case they’re making their own holiday plans.
Reciprocal arrangements with family and friends
One other cheap childcare option is for you to arrange different paid leave or days off from family and friends who also have children. This means that you could then take it in turns looking after all the children. It might seem like harder work looking after more kids, but if they’re similar ages then they can be relied on to entertain themselves.
A cheap childcare option is for you to arrange different paid leave or days off from family and friends who also have children.
Before entering into such a reciprocal arrangement, you have to discuss issues like discipline. Also, you should clear up the matter of finances. Are you going to have a weekly kitty to fund activities outside the home or day trips, or will you only pay when you’re in charge?
Changing your work schedule and patterns
Depending on your job, you might be able to arrange with your boss to work at least one day from home. Although this might seem ideal, be realistic about how much work you’ll be able to get done especially if you have younger kids who require a great deal more attention.
Alternatively, it might be possible to change your shift and/or work at the weekends. If you organise this well with your partner, you might find that you can cover most days with at least one of you at home.
You could also stagger your annual summer leave so that you have different weeks off to your partner. This can help you to cover at least 4 weeks of the long summer break. The major drawback is that you won’t be able to go away together as a family unit. If you need this quality time as a family, allow your paid leave to overlap by one week so you can do both.
Holiday camps and play schemes
There are a wide variety of holiday camps and play schemes throughout the summer in all areas of the UK. Some are run by schools, some are private, some voluntary and some are organised by religious groups. The most expensive tend to be residential camps. They also offer different age-appropriate fun activities for kids varying from sports to music.
To check what’s on locally, go to the gov.uk site and enter your postcode, or you could check with your local authority. Places for such schemes tend to be in great demand so the sooner you book, the better. According to thinkmoney, their average cost in 2017 was £109 per week so it’s a pricier option. However, you know that the children’s play is structured, that they’ll be learning new things and that they’ll also be socialising with other kids. If you like the idea of a summer scheme but money is an issue, you might be entitled to help with your childminding costs over the summer. What can you claim?
Governmental financial help with summer childcare costs
In order to receive state financial assistance with childcare costs, it’s vital that your childcare provider is registered. The different types of governmental help are as follows:
Tax Free Childcare: Up to £500 every 3 months for each child.
Universal Credit: Claim back up to 85% of monthly childcare costs to a maximum of £646 per month for 1 child or £1,108 for 2 or more.
The childcare element of Working Tax Credit: Up to 70% covered with a maximum of £122.50 per week for 1 child and £210 a week for 2 or more.
Child Tax Credit: Up to £175 a week for one child or £300 for 2 or more.
Check on the government’s website to see which one you’re eligible for. If you’re eligible for more than one, there’s a childcare calculator so you can work out which one gives you the highest governmental contribution.
Conclusions about childcare for the summer holidays
Although children all look forward to the long summer holidays, the same can’t be said for working parents. The key to ensuring that you have childcare cover for all 6 weeks is to be organised and start making plans beforehand. This way, you can carry on working secure in the knowledge that your children are being well-looked after, and that they’re enjoying their break from school.