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Who’s caring for the kids?

With childcare so expensive, it’s no wonder parents are roping in friends and family to help out.

A recent report from Churchill Home Insurance has found nearly three-quarters of parents of parents get help with childcare. An average of £155 is spent each week, adding up to £7,192 a year per child. But the total cost of full-time care would be £10,000 more at £16,692.

The most common babysitters are grandparents with close to a third (28%) of them relied upon to care for kids. They’re then spending an average of 9 hours and 17 minutes each week doing it.

More time is spent with professionals. 17 hours and 23 minutes is spent on average at day-care or a nursey each week, while 14 hours 23 minutes is through childminders and babysitters. These are also the next most common groups used for childcare at 12% and 7% respectively.

It’s less common for other family members to help out, but combined they're asked to help by 20% of parents. The hours they clock up when they do get involved can make up a huge chunk of the week. Other family members care for 13 hours and 47 minutes a week, older siblings spend 10 hours and 25 minutes a week caring, and friends another 7 hours and 30 minutes.

Finally, though only 3% of parents employ a live-in nanny, when they do it averages at a huge 21 hours 18 minutes a week.

How to help with childcare costs

Free help from friends and family can only get you so far if you don’t have the funds to pay for childcare. However there are ways to get financial support.

You can get free child care for three and four-year-olds in the UK – though how much depends on which country you live in.

You can read the details of the schemes for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in our guide for helping with child costs.

There are also other schemes which could bring down the costs. Here are the key ones.

Working Tax Credit and Universal Credit

There a few elements that make up Working Tax Credit, and childcare is just one. However, if you’re eligible you can get up to 70% of your costs covered. You need to be working at least 16 hours a week.

It may be that you’ll need to claim this via Universal Credit, a benefit which replaces six existing benefits including Working Tax Credit. If this is the case it doesn’t matter how many hours you work in order to be eligible.

Tax-free childcare

You can also get tax-free childcare. So if you’re a basic rate taxpayer, for every 80p you spend, you’ll get it topped up to £1 by the government. You and your partner do need to work at least 16 hours a week each and earn less than £100,000 a year.

Childcare vouchers

These are given by employers taking part in the scheme as part of a salary sacrifice scheme where you give up some of your pay in return for the vouchers, but in return you don’t pay tax or National Insurance on this part of your pay. Your child must be under 15 years-old. However this scheme will closed to new parents from April 2018.


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