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Family Life and Childcare for Expats in the United Kingdom

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: July 2013

Family life in the UK

Family life is changing in the UK, not only in respect to household composition and characteristics, but the way of life. According to a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were about 18.2 million families in the UK in 2012, of which about 42% have dependent children.  The average household size was 2.35 persons in 2011. Most of them live in a detached, semi-detached or terraced house, although apartments and flats are popular in city and town centres. More information about the UK 2011 Census analysis can be found here:  https://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/census/analysis/index.html.

Childcare in the UK

Childcare provider

In the UK, looking after your children can be expensivewhether you pay a babysitter, a nanny, a childminder or a nursery. Sometimes, one parent may choose to stay at home or change to part time work in order to look after their children, rather than having a full time job and leaving their children with others.

A babysitter is normally a teenager who temporarily cares for a child. Usually the cost can range between £6 and £10 per hour.

A nanny is more professional than a babysitter and usually does more work. Cost varies depending on whether you want a live-in nanny or not. You can get some idea from a providers’ website, such as https://www.royalnannies.co.uk/nanny-salary-guide.html

A childminder is a childcare professional who looks after other people’s children at home. You normally need to prepare a payment of three to five pounds per hour per child.

Nurseries are places where children play together with the supervision of nursery teachers. A typical full-time nursery will cost about £200 per week per child, depending on the area. 

Things to consider

If you choose to find somebody to help, you should consider the following issues.

You should check the certificate or qualification of your childcare provider. For example, childminders must register with the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) in England, Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) in Wales and the Care Inspectorate in Scotland. Their websites can be found here: Ofsted: https://www.ofsted.gov.uk ;  CSSIW:

ttp://wales.gov.uk/cssiwsubsite/newcssiw/?lang=en ;  and Care Inspectorate: https://www.careinspectorate.com/.  You can find a registered childminder in England here: https://www.gov.uk/find-registered-childminder. A nanny doesn’t have to register with the Voluntary Childcare Register. But it will be a must if you want to claim the childcare tax credit to offset against your tax bill. HRMC gives more information about tax credit on childcare costs here: https://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/start/who-qualifies/children/childcare-costs.htm.

Furthermore, you need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (previously CRB check) on your potential childcare provider. This check is called Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme in Scotland and called Enhanced Disclosures Level check in Northern Ireland. For more information about the check, please read this: https://www.gov.uk/disclosure-barring-service-check/overview.  

Other considerations include checking your childcare provider’s proof of ID and address, valid Paediatric First Aid Certificate, adequate and up to date insurance, and references.  

Sure start children centres

Sure Start Children’s Centres are funded by the government and provide integrated free services for young children and their families. They normally run a large variety of classes in different aspects for children in different age groups.  You also can seek help and information including childcare and certain benefits for which you may qualify. 

There are about 3,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres all over the UK. You can find one near your home here: https://www.gov.uk/find-sure-start-childrens-centre.

Pre-school education

In the UK, every child between three and five years old can have 15 hours per week of pre-school education free of change. Such education is not simply about childcare but normally involves encouraging and supervising educational play. It can be provided in childcare centres, playgroups, nursery schools, nursery classes within primary schools, or Private Voluntary or Independent (PVI sector) nurseries. You can find a nursery school here: https://www.gov.uk/find-nursery-school-place.  To find a childcare centre or other place, you may need to contact your local council. To find your local council, please follow this link: https://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/Start.do?mode=1.

For more information about education, please see State School Systems for Expats in the United Kingdom.



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