Advice and Tips

Childcare

Deciding that you will leave your baby or child with someone else on a regular basis is a big step for a parent. You will want to be confident that you have found the right person for the job.

Relatives
Relatives are the greatest source of childcare in Britain today. There are many advantages to asking the father, grandparents or an aunt to look after your child. You will be leaving him with someone who will always be a part of his life and who will take a special interest in him. It is also likely to come at a lower rate than standard childcare fees. Difficulties may arise when it comes to telling your childminder how you like things to be done, but you should take a firm, but tactful line, at the earliest opportunity.

Childminders
Childminders are the second most popular choice with mothers around the country. Childminders provide an opportunity for your baby to play with other children in homely surroundings. All childminders must be registered by social services which means that criminal record checks are made and that their home has passed a series of safety checks.

However, do take references. Check the registration certificate and insurance details too. Ask questions about the daily routine, first aid training, where your baby will sleep, whether there are any pets or smokers in the house, and ask to meet the family if possible. From watching her with her own family, you will get a good idea whether you are comfortable with the environment.Check what hours she will work and whether you have to pay while you are on holiday.

Childminders look after children in their own home which means you will be responsible for delivering the baby there and collecting her afterwards.

Start looking early. Childminders are not generally allowed to look after more than one child under one year old, so these places can get booked in advance.

Once you have agreed hours, stick to them. Being late is not an option. Remember that a childminder also has a family and they need her attention as well.

Nursery
This normally means a private day nursery, although some employers do provide workplace facilities. Nurseries are a popular choice for mothers who start work early in the morning. They offer continuity of familiar faces: if one member of staff leaves or is off sick, there are others whom your baby or child will recognise. They also offer more contact with other children which may be something you value. Check that they take babies if this is relevant. Ask about the staff/child ratio and the rate of staff turnover. Ask about the training of staff members and whether they have first aid skills. (IT IS GENERALLY A CONDITION OF REGISTRATION)

Some local authorities offer free or low-cost places at their own nurseries for children who fulfil certain criteria, which may cover low-income families or those under stress. Look for the Ofsted report and check whether the nursery has been awarded any accreditation such as the one offered by the Pre-School Learning alliance which ensures high standards of care.

Nanny
This is often the most expensive option. Nannies work in your home and should have qualifications such as NNEB, or extensive experience with children. They can live in or out (which makes them more expensive), or you could explore the option of a nanny-share with another family. If you work long or irregular hours or want your child to have one-to-one care in your own home, this may be your preferred option.

Contact specialist agencies and advertise to find the right candidate. Check at least two references on the telephone and try to find out why the nanny left her last job. If she is qualified, check with the institution from which she has obtained her qualifications. Interview a nanny thoroughly to check you have similar views on discipline, feeding and so on. Prepare your questions thoroughly. What sort of activities would she arrange? Is she insured to drive her charges? Does she have a clean driving licence? Has she got a criminal record? Has a child ever come to harm in her care? Arrange a trial run before you go back to work. The cost will be between £80 and £250 per week excluding tax and NI which you must pay, depending on the area and whether she lives in or out.

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