Life in the UK

Childcare options and what to consider

If you’re new to the UK and have children, choosing childcare can be daunting. This article details the childcare options available to you in the UK and what to consider, so that you can decide which ones best suit your family’s needs and budget.


Day Nursery

Day nurseries offer care for children from six weeks to five years old. They may be run privately or by the local authority.

Most nurseries are open for long hours, usually from 8 am – 6 pm which fits most working hours. The fees are sometimes subsidised by local authorities or employers and you can use your weekly 15-30 hours free childcare allowance if your child is eligible. You can also use childcare vouchers and claim the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit to help you with the cost.

Nurseries are regularly inspected by Ofsted and you can find their most recent report on the Ofsted website.


Registered Childminder

A childminder is someone who looks after children within their own home and must be registered with one of the following:

  • England: Ofsted
  • Scotland: Care Inspectorate
  • Wales: Care and Social Services Inspectorate
  • Northern Ireland: Health and Social Care Trust

You may be eligible for help to pay for your childcare using tax-free childcare. If you’re eligible for Universal Credit, you might be able to claim back up to 85% of the monthly childcare. Or you may be able to use childcare vouchers or claim the childcare element of Working Tax Credit. If your child is eligible, you will also be able to use your weekly free 15-30 hours childcare allowance when sending them to a childminder. As childminders are self-employed, there’s no need to worry about paying their tax or National Insurance contributions.

However, one thing to consider is that if your chosen childminder is away on holiday or unwell, you will need to make other childcare arrangements.


Employing a Nanny

A Nanny is similar to a childminder, but they take care of the child in the child’s own home. You can employ a part-time nanny, a daily one or a live-in nanny who will require their own bedroom within the child’s home. As long as the nanny is registered, you can use childcare vouchers to help cover the childcare costs. Hiring a nanny means you will be their employer and so will need to pay their income tax, NI contributions plus holiday and sick pay. As an employer, automatic enrolment means you’ll have to pay into a pension for your nanny if they are at least 22 and earn more than £192 a week (£833 a month) before tax. You will also need to arrange other childcare arrangements if your nanny is sick or away on holiday.


Live-in Au – Pair

An au – pair is somebody who lives with you and learns the local language and culture whilst providing 30 hours of childcare and help around your home. A couple of cons to employing an au – pair is that you cannot use childcare vouchers, nor can you claim the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit.


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