Choosing the right childcare for your baby can be a difficult and time-consuming process. You are choosing and entrusting the person who will act as 'you' when you're not around! You need to think about your requirements, do you need help full-time, you may be going back to work and have a full schedule; or part-time help might be more suitable, where perhaps a Nanny share could be a consideration. If it is occasional help then maybe a family member or childminder might be the better option. Many of the good nurseries will have incredibly long waiting lists and may require you to register your baby as soon as its born. Human resources experts say many women leave it until the last minute to arrange childcare and this can cause untold problems and stress and make your return to work much harder. You need to consider what childcare is the right option for you and suits your needs:
The types of childcare options are:
- Au Pair
A good place to begin with is your local children's information services, it will provide you with a list of local childcare options, also giving advice on what to look for and questions you might want to ask when investigation the best childcare for your baby!
Register with a good couple of agencies, as they will carry out all background checks and save you time, there will be a fee involved but agencies will provide you reassurance. You can go it alone and then you will need to carry out all relevant checks. Never just rely on a CV always carry out reference checks, an initial phone reference followed up by written references.
The advantage of a nanny is being able to care for your baby in their own home and fit around your domestic/working life. Most nannies will be highly trained with qualifications and will also hold a first aid qualification. Always meet the candidates and discuss all required details with them before employing them. You may want a live in or lie out nanny; some families may choose a nanny share enabling you to split a week with another family for part of the week, although nanny shares can be difficult to manage logistically, so you would need to find a family that is compatible with you. Nannies do not have to be registered with Ofsted but many will volunteer to do this and they will need a criminal background check, DBS. A good nanny agency will have already carried out these checks before they send you suitable candidates. During your interview with a nanny explain your approach to parenting and the boundaries you have set or want set for your baby/child. Consistency is very important for children so it is vital the nanny adopts the same approach as you.
Remember your nanny is not a cleaner-they look after the baby or children, she may look after the babies clothes and rooms but not clean the loo! She will be like a member of the family but you need to set ground rules: issues like smoking, having friends round, driving and confidentiality.
The disclosure and barring service(DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment choices and prevents unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. It replaces the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). Check it at <ahref="http://www.gov.uk/disclosure-barring-service-check">www.gov.uk/disclosure-barring-service-check</a>.
What doses a nanny cost?
Nanny- £7.00 - £15.00 per hour depending on the experience.
As their employer, you will also have to pay their tax and NI contributions, plus holiday and sick pay and if allowing them to drive your car organise car insurance for them. Nannies may also have their own public liability insurance.
A registered day nursery is regulated by Ofsted and you can look at their most recent report on the Ofsted website. Ofsted inspectors will carry out rigid inspection of nursery settings for quality of care and safety. Nursery school providers must meet all Ofsteds requirements at all times when providing childcare. Ofsted will carry out inspections to ensure that providers comply with these requirements.
Many parents feel guilty about leaving their baby/child at nursery, but research shows that children who are given high quality childcare have better social, emotional and educational development than their peers. Day nurseries will offer full-time care for at least 50 weeks of the year, and unlike a nanny or childminder if a staff member is sick there is always a back up. Many nurseries offer flexible options for parents, including a full day or half day and some offer a school day. Always check with the individual nursery for their opening hours and packages they offer. Some will open from 7am - 7pm and others 8am - 6pm - they vary!
When looking at a nursery there are several things to consider. Is it clean and well cared for and is it well equipped. Is it on your way to work so saves you time in travelling? Are there adequate facilities for outdoor play and rest/sleep areas? And does it offer a properly balanced nutritious menu suitable for all the ages of children it takes in.
Most staff will be qualified, but it is worth asking what the ratio of carers to children is.
Search a list of nurseries near to you at the Governments website: www.education.gov.uk. You can also check what's near to you by using the website of the National Day Nursery Association, www.ndna.org.uk. Always visit the nursery and ask to see their policies; speak to the staff while being shown around, you will want to walk away with the knowledge that your baby/child will be well cared for in a nurturing manner and that only authorised people are allowed in and out. The staff should be well qualified for their roles and with adequate background checks and ongoing training.
What does a nursery cost?
Nursery - £800 - £1300 per month for a full time place
Many nurseries will include the cost of all meals, nappies and extra curricula activities the nursery offers, but always check this as these maybe extra costs.
All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education for 38 weeks a year until they reach school age. Check with the nursery that they offer this option as some nurseries will have chosen to opt out of this scheme. The Government has also announced that some two year olds can access free care in certain circumstances.
Many companies offer employers childcare vouchers which can be used to help pay towards nursery education; many childminders may also accept these. Speak to your employer to see if they offer this scheme, also check with the nursery that they accept childcare vouchers.
More information can be found:
Childminders look after babies/children within their own homes and they offer a homely environment. You may also find group childminding services, where a number of childminders operate out of one of their homes offering high quality childcare following the Early Years Foundation stage. They have to follow strict guidelines on how many children they can look after at one time. They do need to have background checks and certain qualifications and they will need to be registered with their local authority. Many childminders will have years of experience in looking after children, with many women choosing to do this when their own children are older. The care is of high quality but is affordable and flexible and many childminders will accept childcare vouchers for part payment. Children will receive individual attention in a home to home setting.
Always visit the childminders home and check that they have good safety measure in place, door locks, stair gates and so on. Ensure their home is clean and tidy and they have good resources for pre school children. Childminders must look after no more than six children under eight and no more than three of those can be younger than five. They must have public liability insurance. Childminders will operate normally between the hours 8am-6pm, although you may find some will negotiate the hours you require.
What does a childminder cost:
£3.50 - £7.00 per hour depending on experience and qualifications.
www.childcare.co.uk - you do have to pay to see any contact details but it offers a good service and covers all of the UK.
Au Pairs usually live with the family they work for and they are typically a young woman from abroad who wishes to work in the UK, taking care of the children and doing household chores. They are entitled to minimum wage. They should have their own private room in the house provided free of charge. They will eat their main meals with the family and do light housework and childcare for about 5 hours a day, they may also babysit a couple of times a week. Many will attend English language school in their spare time. Au Pairs are ideal if your work schedules are erratic, you may work part-time or have a busy social schedule that means you are often not around at bath and bedtime. They work out cheaper than a Nanny but will not have the same skills such as they may not have first aid or be able to drive. They do bring a different culture and language into your home.
Always try to meet them before you offer them a job. These days you can Skype chat enabling you to speak and see them. They normally get paid pocket money and don't have to pay tax or national insurance.
What does an Au Pair cost?
£75- £100 per week pocket money and extras.
British Au Pair Agencies Association website. For further information for au pairs and host families.
If you live near to your parents or your partners parents, they might be able to offer help looking after your baby/child and this might be the perfect solution for you. This arrangement can work well if finances are tight and grandparents are willing to help out. Many grandparents welcome the opportunity to spend plenty of time with their grandchildren. But don't take them for granted and be sure you drop off and collect the children when you said you will. To ensure there are no misunderstandings it is good to talk things through thoroughly and reassure on a regular basis. Offer compensation for out of pocket expenses or have an agreement of a float for things that they buy the children on outings they go on. What causes the most disagreement is different style of parenting, disciplining the children, many grandparents find this hard as they want the children to have fun, but talk through your views, but remember don't take advantage of them!
What does a grandparent cost?
Usually free except for expenses.
www.ofsted.gov.uk - nurseries, childminders
www.pacey.org.uk - childcare
www.gov.uk/find-registered-childminder - childminders
www.bapaa.org.uk - Au Pair agencies