Childcare: Which Provider is Right for You?
Childcare is something that nearly all parents will have to consider at some stage. Nowadays, most parents need to work at least part-time, or they may choose to work. Even those that are full time stay-at-home parents will probably need to utilise the services of a childcare provider at some point during their children’s lives.
There are lots of options available to choose from when it comes to childcare. In this article, we will go over the commonly available childcare providers in the hope that we will make a sometimes-difficult (and often emotional) decision a little easier.
Childminders are self-employed childcare professionals who look after children in their own homes, from very young babies to pre-teens. They are usually able to provide flexible hours, and are sometimes able to pick up and drop off children, which can make life a little easier for a busy working parent. Childminder rates across the country vary, but the average is £3.84 per child per hour. The benefits of using a childminder are many, especially for the child who will usually find it easier to settle in than they would at a nursery.
Nurseries provide childcare to many children at once. They generally accept children from a few weeks old, until the age of four. The children are usually cared for in large groups, with the babies being kept separately from the older ones. Many parents prefer to have a childminder or nanny to provide childcare for their little ones because the busy environment of a nursery can be too much for a baby or toddler. However, some children thrive on the stimulating and structured environment of a nursery – it all depends on the child’s individual temperament. Nursery fees vary, but for a child under two it can cost £177 per week for a full-time place – even more in inner London.
Nannies provide childcare in the child’s home, and usually live on-site. You would be the nanny’s employer, and therefore would be responsible for paying her tax and NI contributions. Nannies are a popular childcare choice with parents who both work long hours. They are generally the most expensive childcare provider, with their take-home wages ranging from £280-£380 per week. Many parents see this as a small price to pay to have their childcare provider on site, available for unsociable hours if she is needed (although her hours will need to be agreed upon in advance and contracted). There is also an emotional benefit to the children, who will be looked after by the same person each day in a familiar environment.
Au pairs are usually the cheapest childcare option, as they don’t generally charge a real wage. They will live in your home, so you will be required to feed them and house them, as well as paying them pocket money of a minimum of £65 per week if they are working 25 hours. Au pairs come from other European countries, and come to the UK on au pair schemes to improve their English whilst doing some babysitting to earn money. They will also usually do some housekeeping. Au pairs should be treated as part of the family rather than an employee, and they shouldn’t be required to work the same long hours of a nanny because they need time to study.