Written by: Denise Morgan
Juggling childcare and work can be a bit of challenge at the best of times, but when childcare is required at unexpected moments, things can seem to get a tad complicated. Throw an older child into the mix and you may be inclined to panic. But worry not, because things are simpler than you may first think and there are in fact plenty of options out there for working parents of older children.
The welfare of your child is of course paramount to any parent, the ideal solution when childcare is required would be for a trusted friend or relative to step into your shoes when you simply can’t. Whether it be picking up the children from school, ensuring they get to their extra-curricula activities on time, or making sure they get a decent meal in your absence; the availability of someone you know to do all this can alleviate all sorts of stress. Yet if this isn’t an option, or the designated family babysitter is unavailable, you will need to have a backup plan that will make you and your child comfortable.
Extended school hours
This is arguably the next best thing to placing your child into the care of a friend or relative. Many schools provide extended hours in the form of homework clubs or after school socials, which means if you are needed to work longer hours or can’t make it to school in time for pick up, your child can remain at school until you get there. A lot of schools also have breakfast clubs which allow you to drop them off earlier and head off to work safe in the knowledge that your children are in the capable hands of their teachers. The majority of schools will charge for the extra time your child spends at school, but like many other forms of childcare, if the school is Ofsted registered you could be entitled to help with costs.
It’s all well and good when your kids are in school, but what about the summer holidays? Taking six or seven weeks off work is simply not an option for most parents and asking friends and relatives to look after your children for that length of time is a big ask. As long as these clubs are more than merely sports or activity-based, and the attending child is 8 years old or younger, they could be Ofsted registered, meaning you could be to some help towards fees. A word of advice: if you do need to register your child with a holiday club, do it early as places tend to go very quickly!
One of the great things about using a childminder is that they will often look after children various ages, meaning if you have younger and older kids they can be looked after in the same place. Childminders work at their own residence and may be registered with Ofsted. A childminder is paid by the hour and will vary depending on services offered (meals, pick-up and drop-off for example) and where they are in the country. Some childminders may stipulate specific holiday dates and you will also need to be aware of any holiday pay rates due to the childminder.
The distinct difference between childminders and nannies is that nannies care for your children in your own home. They are not likely to be registered with Ofsted and if this is the case you will not be eligible for assistance with paying their wage. Nannies are also not required to have embarked on any official training, although many may.
As you can see, there are many options available to working parents needing childcare in a variety of circumstances and depending on the individual needs of the parent and the child.