School holidays without the parental tears
Chiara Cavaglieri looks at ways to keep children occupied and entertained over the summer without breaking the bank
Sunday 01 July 2012
W ith the school holidays fast approaching, families will be starting to think about how to care for their children over the summer break.
Childcare doesn't come cheap; according to new research by the Daycare Trust and the parenting website Mumsnet, a third of families spend as much on childcare as they do on their rent or mortgage, with many being forced to borrow to cover the rising cost of caring for their offspring.
The issue hasn't gone unnoticed by the Government, with a new commission recently announced that will look into the cost of childcare.
Anand Shukla, the chief executive of the Daycare Trust, says the survey sets out just how big a barrier childcare costs are for working parents, but adds that they don't want reduced costs at the expense of staff levels.
"While parents want affordable childcare they are not prepared for quality to be compromised," she says. "The Government's new Childcare Commission should pay heed when considering how to ease the burden of childcare costs for parents."
Costs become an even bigger issue during the summer holidays. Instead of paying for childcare before and after school, parents have to think about how they will look after their children all day, every day, for around six weeks.
If you are concerned about meeting your childcare costs, check that you are making the most of any financial help available. In England, three and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education a week. This allowance can be used for places at nursery schools, children's centres, playgroups, pre-schools and accredited child-minders.
Next, check if you're eligible for the childcare element of working tax credits which is designed to help working parents cover childcare fees. Generally speaking you should qualify if you're a single parent working at least 16 hours a week, or a couple both working 16 hours a week, with a total household income under £42,000.
These credits are paid straight into your bank account and cover up to 70 per cent of eligible childcare costs, limited to £175 a week for one child and £300 for two or more children (equivalent to maximum payouts of £122.50 and £210 respectively).
The summer holidays are the perfect time to search out free or cheap activities for children. The National Citizenship Service (nationalcitizenservice.direct.gov.uk) is a Government-run camp focusing on activities such as rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking, white-water rafting and trekking. The camps run for three weeks between June and August for 16 and 17-year-olds in England. Most of the providers offer the scheme for free, but for those that do charge bursaries are available.
Alternatively, ask your local authority what services they provide, as these will often be cheaper or subsidised. Or, with a little digging you could find a cut-price provider near you. In the Midlands, for example, ClubsZone provides breakfast clubs, football sessions, cricket, dancing, arts and athletics clubs as an alternative to childcare. The courses are aimed at five to 12-year-olds and prices start from just £10 a day.
Other options include a nanny-share, with one nanny looking after children from two families at the same time, or you might be able to hire a part-time nanny who works for another family the rest of the time.
"The main benefits are that it can reduce costs for each family, and it can be a good arrangement if you only need a part-time nanny, but be warned: nanny-sharing can throw up conflicts over parenting styles," says Justine Roberts, the co-founder of Mumsnet.
It's also worth investigating whether childcare vouchers could save you money. This salary sacrifice scheme – which your employer will need to sign up to – allows you to pay for childcare direct from your gross salary, before tax and National Insurance. So, if you give up £1,000 of your salary – which would reduce to about £700 in take-home pay once tax and NI have been taken out – in return you'll get £1,000 of vouchers and will be £300 better off.
Basic-rate taxpayers can claim a maximum of £55 a week in vouchers, higher rate taxpayers £28 a week and 50 per cent taxpayers £22 a week. The number of children you have has no impact but the allowance is per parent so if you and your partner are working you can both claim up to £55 a week.
However, childcare vouchers aren't beneficial for every family, as they can affect your eligibility for tax credits. You can use the HM Revenue & Customs calculator at hmrc.gov.uk/calcs/ccin.htm to work out if you'd be better off.
"Childcare vouchers are far more versatile than some parents realise," says Julian Foster, the managing director of Computershare Voucher Services. "If you're using registered care, be it breakfast clubs, after- school clubs, or even music lessons and other extracurricular activities, then ask if they accept childcare vouchers and start making those savings. With family budgets being squeezed, every penny really counts."
Independent Partners: See how much you could save by switching credit cards. Compare now
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
From rainforests and reefs to beaches and boat trips
comedy'Fresh Meat' star sees off stiff competition from Alan Carr, David Mitchell, Graham Norton, Lee Mack and Sarah Millican to win top prize
- 1 French café starts charging extra to rude customers
- 2 Australia incest case: Deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 3 Physicists discover 'clearest evidence yet' that the Universe is a hologram
- 4 Woman who miscarried in private prison 'made to clean up after herself,' court told
- 5 Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Harrington Starr: Risk Managemen...
£Attractive Package: Citifocus: This is a new role offering the successful can...
£250 - £300 per day: Harrington Starr: Help drive the design, utilization and ...
£32000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Desktop Support (client facing, 1st/2nd Li...
Day In a Page
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A Grade II-listed home with six bedrooms, secluded landscaped gardens and views across Hadley Green
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden
A spacious Grade II-listed family home with annexe and equestrian facilities among four acres of land in Itchingfield
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.
John Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool to be sold at auction. Guide price: £150,000-£250,000.
A six-bedroom detached period property with secluded gardens, ample parking and a double garage in Rye, £675,000.
A large split-level property with three double-bedrooms and roof terrace, close to Crouch End Broadway, £625,000.