Childcare is expensive: but if it’s good quality care, then it’s worth paying for. For most parents, the cost of childcare falls the older the children get. But that doesn’t mean it stops. If you’re a working parent then you know the difficulty of arranging enough play dates, courses and the lot to cover school holidays. And all those football, tennis, karate and art courses add up.
This week, the Tax-Free Childcare scheme was extended to include children between nine and 11. This scheme has been fraught with problems – this final roll out was delayed and there have been many complaints from parents trying to register for the scheme. The Tax-Free Childcare scheme allows parents and carers to open an account for childcare costs and for every £8 you put in the government adds £2. The maximum the state will contribute in a year is £500 every three months – that is £2,000 per child per year (£4,000 if they have a disability) so you can fund up to £10,000 of childcare for each child a year through the scheme.
To have an account, both parents must work in the UK (self-employed included) and you must each earn less than £100,000 a year. However, if you get other help for childcare costs – such as childcare vouchers – you can’t sign up. The website for opening an account is here. Once you’ve got the account you can use the money to pay for childcare – but only if the provider is also registered with the Childcare Choices website as an approved childcare provider. How you check whether a provider is approved depends on which country in the UK you live in – there are more details here. Approved childcare providers usually fall into one of these categories: registered childminders, play schemes, nurseries, schools or clubs.
There are other incentives on offer for those needing childcare. If you’ve got a three or four year old and work at least 16 hours a week then you can get 30 hours a week free childcare. Some working families also qualify for tax credits worth up to £122.50 a week depending on how much they earn. Childcare vouchers are offered by some employers which allow you to save up to £933 in tax and National Insurance – but these won’t be on offer to new joiners after this April (they will remain for those already getting them). They instead will have to apply for the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme.
One thing that’s all too obvious: working out how to get the best and cheapest childcare really isn’t easy...
How do you sort your childcare and do you think it's value for money? Share your views at our forum here
How do you sort your childcare - and do you think it's value for money? Share your views at our forum