Home Living in the UK Family & Pets The childcare system in the UK
Last update on June 11, 2021

If you’re living in the UK, this guide on the UK childcare system also includes information on Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance.

There is good news for parents who have moved to the UK; childcare is easily accessible and you can choose from various options. Naturally, too many options make it hard to decide; so consider each alternative carefully. Coordinate childcare with your working hours and budget in order to find the right balance between your professional career and a rewarding parent-child relationship.

Considering your child’s needs

One option is a childminder. These are self-employed child carers who look after children in their own home. They must register with Ofsted in England or Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).

In addition to taking care of your child during pre-school years, you can also count on them later; they offer childcare before or after school, as well as during school holidays. Some offer flexible hours to coordinate with your work schedule.

In order to sign an agreement contract with a childminder, you must negotiate rates, including extra working hours, holiday pay, as well as terms and conditions. Prices vary according to region and the child’s age. It’s usually more expensive for younger children, as they require more attention.

If you need a flexible childcare solution, you can always count on a nanny. A nanny comes to your house and takes care of your child at home. Some nannies have nursing or childcare training; however, they don’t require special qualifications.

If your nanny is not part of the Ofsted voluntary childcare register or Childcare Approval Scheme in Wales, it’s your responsibility to interview and vet a potential nanny. Once you hire a nanny, prepare to pay them between GBP 250–500 a week, plus their tax and national insurance. Check out www.nannyshare.co.uk, and www.greataupairs.co.uk for more details.

You may also consider alternating childcare and help from a family member. This type of childcare is usually not subsided in the UK, but there are some exceptions that qualify for financial support. If the family member is registered as a legitimate childcare provider, or takes care of a non-family child in addition to your child. If the service is provided outside of your home, your family-assistant may also apply for financial support.

Childcare in the UK: outside the home

Children’s centers are also an alternative. Their working hours are usually between 8:00 and 18:00 all year round. You can choose whether to use their services all day long or leave your child in their care for a few hours. All the details on children’s centers are available on your local Family Information Service website.

Another childcare option is a day nursery. In the UK you may choose between private, community, council or workplace nurseries. They offer full-day service for children aged 0 to 5. They undergo inspections from the same authorities as childminders. In some cases, your child’s stay in the nursery may be subsided by your employer or by the local authority. Prices vary between GBP 140–200 per week.

Part-time child care is also offered in several pre-school facilities: playgroups, early education, and nursery classes, and out-of-school services. They all offer part-time daycare service, depending on your work schedule. All of them are appropriate for children three to five years old. The out-of-school facility offers a breakfast club before school, after school club, and a holiday play scheme – open during school holidays. The cost is approximately GBP 40–50 a week. If you want to find out more, you can visit: www.pre-school.org.uk and www.4children.org.uk.

Maternity Allowance and Statutory Maternity Pay

If you’re pregnant, investigate all the possibilities for financial support from the state or from your employer. According to British law, if you have been working for your employer for the past 26 weeks and if you earn an amount at least equal to the lowest income limit, you’re eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay. The SMP is a weekly payment from your employer to help you during the period right before and after your baby is born.

If you do not fit the criteria for a SMP, you may want to apply for a Maternity Allowance. To prove eligibility, you need the following: you must have been rejected for a SMP, you must be self-employed or recently hired. You usually receive financial support of GBP 128.73 or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings, whichever is smaller.

To find out how to apply for both benefits, visit: Expectingorbringingupchildren

On the whole, Britain is quite parent-friendly. All procedures, from the birth of the baby until they start school, receive state support. However, you must apply for financial support and make arrangements with childcare institutions in advance to ensure your baby’s wellbeing. The Childcare Costs Survey from 2009 warns that over 50% of parents think there’s an insufficient amount of childcare facilities.