The prospect of schools reopening again for all pupils and the beginning of easing of other lockdown restrictions have prompted many employees and employers to start considering a return to a more ‘normal’ work pattern. This means that many parents will start looking ahead to what their childcare needs may be over the coming months.
While registered childcare providers have been able to remain open in recent months, many have been operating at reduced capacity, through a combination of following the Covid-19 guidelines, impact of Covid-19 on staff or a drop in demand for places, as many parents are either working from home or on furlough from their employment.
However, childcare providers of all types are already reporting an increase in enquiries for both full and part time places and for holiday schemes. We know that access to childcare is vital for working parents – so if you anticipate using any form of registered childcare we would advise getting in touch with providers as soon as possible. You may need to confirm your plans with your existing provider in order to retain a space, or secure a place at a new provider.
The Family Support NI website has lots of useful information and the only search facility listing ALL registered childcare providers in Northern Ireland, to help you find registered childcare providers in your area.
Most households, where the parents are working, are eligible for some form of support with registered childcare costs. So, whether your children are returning to childcare after a period of being at home or you are returning to work after having a baby and your child is attending childcare for the first time, make sure you find out what support is available
If you haven’t accessed financial support for registered childcare costs before, you could benefit from Universal Credit or Tax-Free Childcare. Others may continue to access support through Tax Credits and Childcare Vouchers, or may be better off moving on to Universal Credit or Tax-Free Childcare.
Parents may wish to request flexible working where they feel a return to their previous, or current, working pattern is no longer suitable. Employers do not have to grant a request for flexible working, but we anticipate that many more employers will have recognised the benefits of supporting their staff to achieve the work / life balance that best suits their needs. There may also be the opportunity to continue working from home, this could be due to the desire of the employee, as part of a flexible working request, or due to the employer making changes to the way in which they organise their workplace.
We are here to help!
We would encourage anyone wishing to find out more about what financial support they may be entitled to, or to discuss making a request for flexible working arrangements, to contact our Family Benefits Advice Service and one of our skilled advisors will be able to give you personalised advice and guidance, based on your own unique circumstances. For free, impartial and confidential advice Freephone 0800 028 3008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org