Baby and You

Your guide to childcare

Group of babies in daycare.
The Department for Education outlines the key types of childcare and highlights the things you need to consider


Childminders are self-employed child carers who will look after your child in their own home. They must be registered with Ofsted in England; Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW); or the Care Inspectorate in Scotland. As well as caring for children aged 0-5 years, childminders can also offer wrap-around care before and after school and during the school holidays. Some offer flexible hours. Childminders are usually paid on an hourly basis at a rate negotiated with the parent. You’ll need to discuss required hours, holiday pay and other terms and conditions and ensure that details of these are included in the contract you have with your childminder.

Childminder agencies

Since September 2014, the Government has enabled the establishment of childminder agencies. Agencies are able to register childminders and provide them with training, business support, advice, and help to find parents seeking childcare. They maintain lists of the childminders that are registered with them, the services and hours they offer, and ensure that their childminders are subject to a robust quality assurance regime.

Childminder agencies give parents more choice and help with securing childcare that meets their needs. Agencies might appeal to parents for a number of reasons:

• a one stop shop offering a valuable brokering service (contacting around 2 or 3 childminder agencies might give you a choice of a very wide number of childminders, whereas contacting each childminder individually can be a very time consuming exercise);

• offering advice and support about the things to consider when choosing your childminder;

• a trusted brand;

• the assurance that comes with knowing that there is supervision and wider quality assurance
in place;

• the ability to have that very personal relationship with your individual child’s carer, but also to have that brokerage and back up support role performed by a third party (with whom you can raise any concerns or clarify issues at any time).

• Agencies will also be able to provide holiday and sickness cover, ensuring parents have reliable childcare.

For more information on childminder agencies, please see:

Your Family Information Service can provide the details of any childminder agencies operating in your area, and the details of all childminder agencies will be freely available on the Ofsted website at:


Nannies are employed by parents to care for children at home and can be suitable for parents who need flexible childcare. Although many do have nursery nurse or childcare training, nannies do not have to hold qualifications. Nannies can join the Ofsted voluntary childcare register or Childcare at Home Approval Scheme in Wales, but they do not have to so parents are responsible for interviewing and checking the registration and all the relevant references of nannies. Nannies can cost between £250 – £500 per week (depending on their duties and whether they live with you or come to your home each day) and as their employer, parents are responsible for paying their tax and national insurance.


Family and friends may be able to provide a flexible childcare option, and are sometimes used in combination with registered childcare. When a family member or friend cares for your child in your home, the care they provide does not need to be registered. For information about grandparents providing childcare, visit


Children’s centres provide childcare and early education for children under the age of 5 alongside other family services such as links to Job Centre Plus and health and family support. They are usually open from 8.00am to 6.00pm all year round and many offer other services such as drop-in sessions and community activities. Contact your local Family Information Service for further details.


Day nurseries look after and educate children aged 0-5. There are different types of nurseries including private, community, council and workplace nurseries. However all nurseries are registered and inspected by Ofsted in England,  Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) or the Care Inspectorate in Scotland. Weekly costs vary, but can sometimes be subsidised by the local authority or by employers.

For more on day nurseries, contact the National Day Nurseries Association,


Playgroups and pre-schools provide play and education sessions lasting about 3 hours for children aged 2-5. Playgroups are also registered with Ofsted in England, Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) or the Care Inspectorate in Scotland. Costs will vary, check with individual settings for details. Your local Family Information Service can provide you with details of playgroups.


Nursery classes are usually open school hours during term time. Children can attend all day or just on a session by session basis. Some primary schools also offer nursery classes. Contact your local authority’s education department for details.


Parent/carer & toddler groups are drop-in sessions for children and their carers. As parents stay with their children, these groups do not have to be registered. Your local Family Information Service may have listings of local groups or you can ask at your library, and check local newspapers and notice boards.


15 hours free early education for 3 and 4 year olds is available from the term following your child’s third birthday and from September 2017 the government will offer an additional 15 hours of free childcare for nearly 400,000 working parents of three and four year olds. This means parents will be eligible for 15 hours of additional free childcare if they need it for work and they earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage and less than £100,000 a year per parent.

In addition, since September 2013, parents are entitled to 15 hours free early education every week for two year olds from low income families, with a disability or special educational need, and those who are looked after or who have been adopted from care.

Contact your local Family Information Service.

Your childcare checklist

Think ahead: it may take several months of searching before you can find somewhere that accommodates both your own and your child’s needs.

Work out what you need: do you need childcare in the evening, early morning or at the weekend? Will you need additional childcare for school age children during school holidays?

Visit several settings: ask questions about the childcare provided. It might help to take a friend and/or your child on the visits to help you decide. School, community centre or library notice boards may also include details of local childcare providers.

You might be able to get help with costs. See:

You can get more information and help in your area by searching for: Family Information Services




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