childcare circlesA few days ago I was having a conversation about Childcare and working. This led on to the funding for 15 free hours for 3 and 4 year olds. Finlay goes to Nursery for 15 hours, in theory, you would think childcare would be quite cheap for us. After all, you get 15 hours free, right? Technically yes, but in reality not always. For starters, the funding is only for 38 weeks of the year. That’s fair enough, but still, you would think we would only pay for 14 weeks of nursery a year,our bill would be low.

Well, our Monthly nursery fee for 15 hours a week is between £150 and £200 a month. Between £1800 and £2400 a year! How can that be? The simple answer is nurseries can choose how to offer the hours. You will be lucky to find a nursery that lets you take the hours as and when. In my nursery, the funding is limited to 3 hours per session, term time only. I can only take 9 of my 15 hours. Some nurseries let you spread the hours over the whole year which saves larger bills during the holidays if you’re lucky. The rest of the hours for the session at my nursery are charged at a higher hourly rate than the normal. Although it;s definitely cheaper, it;s not technically free and although our bill isn’t huge, it’s a big chunk when you’re on a lower income.

I actually work 22.5 hours a week (recently reduced from 26). If I had to pay childcare for extra sessions, It would not be cost effective for me to work. So how do I make up the shortfall in my childcare? Childcare Circles!

Childcare Circles

What are they? Well, childcare circles or babysitting rings are more often than not set up between friends. Those people who do not have the privilege of having regular babysitters can get out and enjoy an evening without having to pay the earth on top of a night out. They are often close friends, and the group set up rules and have a token type system. One token is perhaps an hours worth of childcare. Each party perhaps starts with 4 tokens and you give and receive between the group. However, childcare circles can easily be adapted for daycare around working parents.

I am extremely lucky that a close friend of mine was only 3 months behind me when I expecting Finlay. One day when the babies were small the topic of nursery came up and how expensive it was. A friend actually suggested we looked after each others baby to save money. We looked at each other and agreed. When we went back to work, I would have her little girl one day a week and she would have Finlay on another. Neither of us use the full day, but the option is there if that is needed. It saves us both money and can be extremely flexible. We have been doing it for almost 3 years now.

Things to consider when setting up a childcare circle around work
  • They work better for closer friends rather than acquaintances
  • Think about how much you trust the other party
  • How many people will be involved/how many babies can you cope with
  • Ensure you all discuss the terms and arrangements
  • Is everyone happy and agrees?
  • Do you have a back up plan in case it falls through?
  • Can give you flexibility, hours not fixed like nursery
  • Saves a lot of money
  • Baby looked after by someone you know and trust
  • Children can form close friendships/bonds
  • Could fall through quite easily if one party pulls out
  • dependent on two way trust
  • No cover when the other party is on holiday/during sickness
  • If you only have one day off, it won’t be just you and your child

Personally, the childcare circle I have been part of has worked so well for me and my friend. Without it, I don’t think I could work the hours I do and get my little bit of independence. Luckily both our works have good family friendly working policies in place. On the odd days where either of us has been away or sick, it hasn’t caused a problem. If you have close friends with children of a similar age, then bring up the subject. You might be surprised and find an affordable solution to childcare issues!






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