The brighter nights are upon us and while it seems like schools have only just reopened, many working parents are already thinking of the challenges that lie ahead when the schools close for the summer holidays – whether that is working out who is going to look after the children when they are off school, or managing the additional costs.
Although we all hope that the Covid-19 restrictions will continue to ease as the weeks go on, it may not be possible for friends or family members to look after children as they may have done over previous summers. This could mean parents are more reliant on formal types of childcare such as day nurseries, childminders or summer schemes.
Don’t let cost prevent you from exploring an option
There is help available with the cost of registered childcare, and this can include summer schemes, as well as year round providers such as registered childminders, out of school clubs and day nurseries. For example, parents may use Universal Credit, Tax-Free Childcare, Childcare Vouchers or Tax Credits to help meet their bills. Even if you are currently in receipt of one of these forms of support this may be a good time to speak to an advisor and check that this will remain the best form of support over the coming months.
It is important to note that some holiday schemes operate differently from other childcare services, in that they are not required to be registered, and the number of hours or days they cover may differ. You may not be able to access financial support to help you with these costs, and so should check with the provider if this is the case.
Finding suitable childcare can be daunting. A key resource is the Family Support NI website www.familysupportni.gov.uk which provides a search function for all registered childcare providers across Northern Ireland.
Local councils and the Education Authority may also provide additional information over the coming months regarding the summer schemes that they are running for school age children.
Some employers may still be making use of the furlough system for their employees and this could help parents to be at home when the children are off school. Other parents may need to request additional time off, paid or unpaid, or request to change their working pattern, such as through a flexible working request.
Flexible working arrangements can take various forms for example part-time working, compressed hours (working your agreed hours over fewer days), 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.
To find out more about what financial support you are entitled to, contact our Family Benefits Advice Service for free, impartial and confidential advice on Freephone 0800 028 3008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.