Childcare in the school holidays.
A little earlier than most areas, but this week we see the first half term holiday in South Gloucestershire. According to research by the national childcare charity Daycare Trust, finding affordable childcare during the school holidays is one of the biggest headaches for parents. Yet because of the lack of places and the high cost, most parents don’t actually organise their holiday childcare until a few weeks beforehand. The costs and shortage of places can be overwhelming, often meaning parents end up taking unpaid leave and using the bulk of annual holiday entitlement to be with the kids with family budgets being squeezed even further.
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. 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. Read our article on flexible working for more information.
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 child-minder or if they’re going to a play scheme. Depending on household income, parents may be able to get up to £122.50 a week for one child and £210 a week for two or more children. Visit www.payingforchildcare.org.uk for more information. Parents who get childcare vouchers from their employer may also be able to get some money for childcare costs through tax credits as well.
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 – Visit your local library or your council’s website to find out about local authority holiday playschemes. These are often run by voluntary organisations, local authorities or charities. These may run for part or all of a working day, giving you the opportunity perhaps to work flexibly during the break.
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.