Everyone knows about the different types of childcare available but choosing the right one for your family and your circumstances can be difficult. We asked those in the jobs to tell you the ins and outs of employing their services.
Why are au pairs a good option?
Employing an au pair takes the pressure off everyday life if you are at home with small children. An au pair is an extra pair of hands to help at breakfast, tea and bath time, while allowing children to get more attention. Au pairs are not allowed to have sole charge of children under the age of two, as they are not trained like a nanny. Where children are very young, an au pair will work under the mother’s supervision. Where children are of school age, an au pair can take them to and collect them from school and do some light housework during the day; this arrangement enables parents to go out to work.
What sort of parents use au pairs?
Au pairs work best in families who are keen to host a young person from abroad, who want to experience a different culture and learn the language in exchange for help with the children and light housework. Au pairs generally work part time and need time to go to language school.
What are the benefits of having an au pair? Are there any disadvantages?
It is interesting for children to welcome someone from another country into their family. This makes it a real cultural exchange and families often keep in touch with the au pair after the end of their stay. There are the obvious advantages of not having to have the children cared for in someone else’s home or in after-school clubs – they can relax in their own home when they are tired after school.
For what type of parents would hiring an au pair be unsuitable?
Au pairs are not allowed to look after children under two by themselves, nor can they cover where someone is on shift work every night. They can do two evenings’ babysitting per week. Generally, they work 25 hours per week and must have two free days each week.
How are au pairs vetted and regulated?
As the government deregulated the au pair industry some years ago, there are many unscrupulous and unprofessional agencies in the UK. It is best to use an agency which is a member of BAPAA ( The British Au Pair Agencies Association – www.bapaa.org.uk), as they set standards for the industry and, if a family uses a BAPAA agent, they can rely on a high degree of professional service from an experienced agent. All members of BAPAA are also members of IAPA (the International Au Pair Association www.iapa.org), which require agencies to ensure their au pairs have independent references, criminal record checks done in the au pair’s own country and a medical certificate.
What are the options and how much do au pairs cost?
The options are to use a reliable agency, as described above, or to use the internet or local ads to find your own au pair. Neither of these last two options are recommended, as there are no checks, no support, no protection for the family and the au pair. Au pairs working 25 hours per week must be paid minimum pocket money of £55 per week but many families choose to pay more, realising that £55 does not go very far in the UK. Some families help the au pair with language school fees or give other small bonuses. The agency will charge an introduction fee which varies from agency to agency.
Vivienne Colchester, ABC Au Pairs, www.abc-aupairs.co.uk
Why are childminders a good option?
Your children will be in a home environment where they can play and learn at their own pace. A childminder can also fit in with things that are already done in the child’s normal routine, e.g. meal and sleep times. Personal preferences in the way the mum would like things done can also be arranged.
What sort of parents use childminders?
Childminders reach out to a wide range of parents, from professionals to the local shop assistant. The attraction lies in the fact that the hours we work are usually flexible and convenient.
What are the benefits of having a childminder? Are there any disadvantages?
Advantages: you get to speak to the person who has looked after your child all day; there is a small child-to-carer ratio; children are often taken on regular outings; and children also enjoy and benefit from the home environment. Disadvantages: could be sickness and holidays not fitting with the parents’ holiday times.
For what type of parents would hiring a childminder be unsuitable?
I can’t find any unsuitable answers! Childminders can work days, nights and weekends, depending on what is on offer in the area.
How are childminders trained and regulated?
Ofsted regulates childminders. We all need a Certificate in First Aid for Babies and Children, and must also complete the Introduction to Childminding Practice. We are offered lots of courses and most childminders will do any on offer. As of April 2005, we were graded by Ofsted and this info will be available on the Ofsted website soon.
What are the options and how much do childminders cost?
Some childminders also do care in the home or overnight care. Costs vary from area to area and also between individual minders.
Susan Walker is a registered childminder in the Newcastle area.
Why are nannies a good option?
A nanny that lives in can often be a help to run the household, as well as care for the children. This makes life for mum and dad much more easy so they get the time they need to work etc and then spare time to relax and see their children. Nannies can also be helpful when going away on holidays, to give mum and dad a bit more freedom. Nannies also often will babysit one or two nights to allows parents time to have a social life.
Some people argue that nannies are expensive – which they can be for some families, especially those with only one child under five. However, if you have two children under five nannies are often a more affordable option. For example, one full-time place in a London nursery can sometimes cost £12,000 per annum. For two or more children, that is very expensive.
What sort of parents employ nannies?
These are often mums who prefer their children to have a sole carer, to really step into mum’s shoes and care for their child in the same way as if they were at home. Parents who employ nannies are on one or two good incomes and often work long hours – again, making nursery less feasible.
What are the benefits of having a nanny? Are there any disadvantages?
A nanny means a child has full-on attention, unlike in nurseries where children have to share a carer with three or four other children. Nannies also are encouraged to get their charges involved in lots of local groups, play gyms, music classes, swimming etc, and often set up play dates with other nannies, so parents are sure their children are having a full and active life and are not stuck in one room all day. Nannies can be flexible with their working hours, can babysit, look after the children in their own home (so no nursery runs!) and can still take care of the child if
they are sick.
The disadvantages are that nannies can be expensive and some people might find it odd having someone living in their house, if they employ a live-in nanny. You also need to trust your nanny and believe in what she is doing and saying about how she is caring for your child.
For what type of parents would hiring a nanny be unsuitable?
Parents on a low income and those with limited living space if they needed a live-in nanny (which is the cheaper option).
How are nannies trained and regulated?
There are a number of courses in childcare and nannies normally have done one of them, eg an NVQ (levels 2 and 3) or CACHE. They should all have done a first-aid course.
We have a ‘bad nanny’ register, which is circulated around all nanny agencies. Bad nannies will not be placed again. We ask all our nannies to get Criminal Record Bureau checks, which ensures they have no official or unofficial cautions and haven’t been banned from working with or teaching children. Once interviewed, we check at least two verbal references and we put together a full CV. All gaps are investigated.
6 What are the options and how much do nannies cost?
There are various options. These are the average net weekly costs:
- live-in nanny: £200-£300+
- live-out nanny: £300-£450+
- part-time nanny: £7-8 (per hour)
- temporary nanny: £7-8 (per hour)
Jo Annycke, Tinies Childcare, www.tinies.com
Why is sending your child to a nursery a good option?
“Parents who send their child to a nursery are assured that they will be looked after by professionals who are trained to care for and support children to learn through play. Nurseries provide continuity of care for children over several years. Parents can register their children at day nurseries from six weeks of age until they start primary school at five years old. A child’s experiences at nursery will also ease their transition to school. Another advantage of a nursery is that they guarantee reliable care regardless of staff sickness or holidays.”
What sort of parents use nurseries?
“Parents send their children to nurseries for a number of reasons, including wanting their children to socialise and learn with children of the same age or a personal preference for wanting their child to be in a safe environment with attractive playrooms, interactive outdoor areas and specialist carers.”
What are the benefits of nurseries? Are there any disadvantages?
“Nursery opening hours fit around the average working day of 8.00am to 6.00pm, although many nurseries operate from 6.00am to 7.00pm. Some nurseries will also offer school pick-ups and out-of-school care.”
“Nurseries remain open all year round, unlike nursery schools that run on a term-time basis, closing for the main holiday periods. Part-time places are also usually available. Finally, nurseries provide a secure environment with a range of stimulating toys for play and learning.”
“Nurseries aren’t suitable for parents who work irregular hours, such as shift work or weekends. Any child who has an infectious illness maybe unable to attend their day nursery. The care of your child could then pose a problem if your employer is unable to give you time off work and you have no back-up plans for emergencies.”
For what type of parents would using a nursery be unsuitable?
- Those who work irregular shift patterns.
- If there are no nurseries located near your home or workplace, or if you have a number of older children who need to be escorted to and from school.
How are nurseries and their staff trained and regulated?
“All day nurseries must be registered and regularly inspected by Ofsted. These inspections ensure that a nursery is following strict guidelines on staff/children ratios, inspecting their health and safety procedures, that their premises are safe for children, as well as ensuring that all staff have had a criminal records check carried out on them. Parents should ask to see the nursery’s latest Ofsted report, you can also find it on Ofsted’s website www.ofsted.gov.uk.”
“Fifty per cent of the staff must hold a relevant childcare qualification, such as NVQ Childcare Level 2 or equivalent, supervisors are required to have an NVQ Childcare Level 3 or equivalent and one member must have a First Aid Certificate.”
What are the options and how much do nurseries cost?
“The typical cost of a day nursery varies according to the geographical area you live in. The highest costs are in London, where parents typically will pay £197 a week. Elsewhere in England, for a child under two, you can expect to pay between £90-£180 a week. Costs in Scotland and Wales are slightly lower at £122 and £120.”
Helen Bleakley, National Day Nurseries Association, www.ndna.org.uk
Where to next?
- For more information on your local childcare options, visit ChildcareLink