Summer childcare issues

In a “normal” year, according to research by the national childcare charity Daycare Trust, finding affordable childcare during the summer break is one of the biggest headaches for parents. Yet, the last year has been anything but normal.  Having been through successive lockdowns, home schooling, possibly having to self isolate, along with not being able to call on family and friends to help out has had a huge effect on families trying to juggle childcare with the day job. Many parents have found they have already exhausted their annual leave entitlement and, in some cases, the patience of their employers.

Despite the additional challenges this year brings, many families still haven’t organised their summer holiday childcare.  Lack of holiday club places, high costs and the current restrictions mean that many parents will be waiting for the latest round of announcements on the 19th July before they will have a certain “plan” of how they will juggle this year’s childcare arrangements.

The annual task of holiday cover is often overwhelming, and this year will be harder than usual, however, we’ve put together some hints and tips that may help to get your childcare organised.

Ask about flexible working 

Parents of children aged 16 and under have the right to ask their employer for flexible working arrangements. Employers are obliged to consider any application for flexible working and can only reject it if there’s a good business reason for doing so. 

Employers are finding more of their staff facing childcare issues, especially for those still working from home.  Many are giving staff a number of flexible working alternatives and may have schemes in place for staff who need to provide childcare during the holidays.

Flexible working takes several forms: either part-time, flexi time (choosing when to work), compressed hours (working your agreed hours over fewer days), staggered hours (different starting and finishing times for employees in the same workplace); job sharing; working from home for part or all of your hours; or term-time only working. Discuss these options with your employer to try and find an arrangement that suits you both. 

Cut the cost 

If you’re receiving tax credits, you are eligible for help with holiday childcare costs, which increase significantly if your children are spending longer with their childminder or if they’re going to a playscheme. How much you are entitled to is dependent on household income.  Visit https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs to see if you are entitled to any help.  Parents who get childcare vouchers from their employer may also be able to get some money for childcare costs through tax credits as well. 

Use your vouchers

Don’t forget there’s a wide network of summer holiday clubs which offer extended hours (often 8am – 6pm) and accept childcare vouchers as payment.

Find a playscheme

A quick search online for playschemes in your area will bring up several options, however these fill up fast.  It’s still worth contacting them as some may have extra places opening up after the announcement in July.  

Talk to other parents

Ask around at school to find parents who are also juggling holiday and childcare to see if you can take turns to work and mind each other’s children. This can help reduce the need for you to take unpaid leave. Other parents may have found other childcare solutions that you hadn’t thought of. Also, your PTA should know of local childminders already providing care for children at your school, or other parents who may be able to help you with informal childcare arrangements.

Use social media

As with asking other parents, asking what solutions parents have found for summer childcare may lead to you hearing about a holiday club you hadn’t heard about before, new childminders or just give you access to a network of parents who can help spread the load.  Facebook groups and Nextdoor.co.uk are excellent places to start, but any social channel could give you great results if you ask.  Why not test this out by posting in our Working in Tenterden Facebook group?

Shared work spaces

Many parents are now splitting the childcare between them and making use of flexible working arrangements meaning that parents can cover childcare by working shifts or compressed hours.  Whilst this does resolve the issue of providing childcare, if you are working from home whilst the kids are around this can be hard to manage.  There are many inexpensive serviced offices and shared workspaces around, along with “hot desks” which is essentially a desk space you can rent by the hour or day.  This gives you a quiet space to work for a few hours away from a busy home.  

To reduce costs ask family and friends if they would be willing to spread the cost of renting an office which you could all use at agreed times in shifts.

Milroy House is a charming, Georgian building in an attractive location in central Tenterden.  Our offices are refurbished to a high, modern standard, yet retain much of the building’s historical character and charm.  To see if we currently have any office space available, please visit here