The Equality Act applies to childcare providers. They are not allowed to discriminate against disabled children and must make ‘reasonable adjustments’. They are allowed to charge extra if they need to employ extra staff or limit their provision to fewer children, but they are only allowed to charge for the extra costs incurred.
Childcare away from your home
A childminder cares for other people’s children in their own home. Childminders who look after under eights must, by law, be registered by OFSTED, who check their qualifications, inspect their premises, carry out criminal record checks and set limits on the number of children they can care for at one time.
You will need to share with the childminder all your knowledge of your child’s needs whether they have basic disability training or not. Although childminders are not allowed to discriminate, they are self-employed, so are in a position to select their own clients. Contact your local authority for the details of local childminders
There are nurseries run by local authorities, community nurseries and privately run nurseries. They all have to be inspected and registered. Nurseries have fixed hours and only cater for under fives above a minimum age. If your child has been allocated some hours in a local authority nursery because they are deemed to be ‘in need’ you may be able to pay for the extra hours you need to cover your working hours.
Breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs:
Childcare provision for primary school-age children is often provided by way of clubs before or after school and in the holidays. Typically they are held on or near school premises. It is less usual for special schools to run these clubs. Clubs on school premises and some others are eligible for the childcare element of Working Tax Credit.
There are few provisions for children of secondary school age although local authorities and disability organisations sometimes run short-term schemes for disabled children. Because childminders only look after a few children, they are in a position to adjust their practice to look after older children.
If your local authority provides transport, ask if you want them to collect/deliver your child from/to your childcare provider. They may be flexible.
Childcare in your home:
Make sure that you understand the extent of any training or experience candidates claim to have and insist on seeing original certificates. Some nannies specialise in caring for disabled children. Whatever their experience, you are the expert on your child and can share your knowledge with them. We recommend to request at least two references, preferably by phone. In order for the costs to be eligible for the childcare element of WTC/UC, the nanny has to be approved, see www.gov.uk. If you are looking for a carer for an older child you might want to check out local care and nursing agencies. If the agency is registered, the care will be eligible for the childcare element of WTC/UC.
If you use an au pair, check out the regulations including those concerning visas, hours of work and pay. For more information: https://www.gov.uk/au-pairs-employment-law/au-pairs.
Paying for childcare:
Working Tax Credit (WTC) and Universal Credit (UC):
If you’re a single working parent, if both parents work or one parent works and the other is incapacitated, in hospital or prison, 70% of your childcare costs (registered or approved childcare) up to £175 a week for one child or £300 a week for more than one child can be included in your claim for WTC/UC. Check how many hours a week you need to work to qualify for WTC/UC. You can claim for disabled children until the end of the week including 1st September following their 16th birthday (15th birthday for non-disabled children). The childcare must be registered or approved, see www.gov.uk. Care by a relative of the child does not qualify. As your income increases the amount of WTC/UC you get is tapered off.
Childcare Vouchers (This scheme is now closed to new applicants):
Some employers provide childcare vouchers as an extra or through a salary sacrifice scheme. There are tax and National Insurance concessions on vouchers up to £55 a week. Vouchers can be used for registered or approved childcare. You cannot include the cost of childcare which is paid for by vouchers in your claim for WTC/UC and sacrificing some of your salary may have a knock-on effect on pay rises and pension contributions so it essential to calculate whether vouchers are advantageous in your circumstances. From October 2018, Childcare Vouchers closed to new applicants. However, you will continue to receive vouchers after this date as long as you joined the scheme and received your first voucher before October 2018, and:
- you stay with the same employer and they continue to run the scheme
- you don’t take an unpaid career break of longer than a year
Tax Free Childcare:
Eligible parents can open a childcare account which is topped up by the government to cover 20% of childcare costs. Tax-Free Childcare was introduced as an alternative to Childcare Vouchers where employers offer vouchers to pay for childcare based on a salary sacrifice scheme.
Childcare Vouchers allow you to avoid paying national insurance and income tax on the proportion of your income that is spent on childcare. At present you can choose whether to use Tax-Free Childcare or Childcare Vouchers. It is not possible to use both schemes at the same time and if you have a partner, you and your partner must both use the same scheme.
Direct Payments (DP):
If your local authority assesses your disabled child as in need of services, you can ask for DP and arrange services yourself such as a nursery place or short breaks (respite care). DP mean that you have much more flexibility. Contact your local authority’s social services to request an assessment.
Free childcare for children aged two, three and four
There are currently three separate government funded childcare schemes that offer free childcare for children aged two, three and four. Each of the free childcare schemes has different eligibility rules so it’s important to check which of the schemes is right for you.
- 15 hours free childcare for 2-year-olds (available for families in receipt of low-income benefits)
- 15 hours free childcare for all 3 & 4-year-olds
- 30 hours free childcare for 3 & 4-year-olds (available for eligible families in work)
If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.