Tips & FAQs about childcare

Making choices about childcare

There are many different options for arranging your childcare. Some people choose to go with a childminder, or nursery, or a combination of different sources of childcare.

For step by step information about the different types of childcare to choose from visit the Family and Childcare Trust. 

You can find an up to date list of your local childcare providers, including nurseries, children centres and childminders by entering your postcode here.

We’ve compiled some tips and frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision about which childcare arrangement will work best for you and your family.

Tips for choosing childcare

Single mum Thea chose her childcare option because she wanted her son to be able to interact with other children in a school-like environment. Find out more about what things she considered, and her advice for other single parents looking for childcare.

My child is turning 3 this month but the nursery tell me she's not able to start her free childcare scheme until next term. Is this right?

Yes this is correct – although your 3 year old will be entitled to a childcare place using either the 15 or 30 hours childcare scheme, she will not be eligible to start attending until the first term after her third birthday.


I need childcare for more than 38 weeks a year. Can I spread the free hours out over the year?

Some childcare providers will allow this, but they are not obliged to do so. It would mean you would have fewer hours per week, but spread across the year. Check with your childcare provider to see whether they can arrange this for you.

Check your options and make sure you are claiming everything that you can on our main childcare page.

My child's nursery want me to pay for lunch and nappies. Can they do this?

Yes, nurseries and childminders can ask you to pay for these items or bring them in if you are using the free childcare schemes.

If you are paying for your childcare, check the terms of your agreement with the nursery to see what is included in the fees and what isn’t.

Will my nursery charge a deposit for my child's place? I'm only planning to use the free childcare scheme.

No, childcare providers are not allowed to charge reservation fees, or fees for registration for the free fifteen hours scheme.

My child is going to school soon. His hours at school are a lot less than they were at the nursery. What are my options for childcare before and after school?

You can claim either tax credits or universal credit to pay for a childminder or other types of childcare before and after school. How much you can recieve depends on your income.

See our main childcare information page for detailed information about which scheme you can use.

If you’re told that you earn too much to recieve tax credits or universal credit, you can apply for ‘tax free childcare’. Find out more and how to apply here.

If you’re already claiming tax credits to pay for all or some of your current childcare, you will need to let the tax credits office know about your new childcare arrangements. See our detailed information ‘tax credits when your circumstances change‘ for more information about how to do this.

Where can I find a list of my local childcare providers? I would like a list of childminders and nurseries to choose from.

The family and childcare trust have an online search tool you can use to find childcare providers in your area. You can look up childminders, nurseries and playgroups.

Use the childcare finder

My child has additional needs or a disability. Where can I find services for my family?

You can find services for disabled children and children with additional needs by using the Family and Childcare Trust’s online checker.

It will give you a link to your SEND local offer, which will be detailed information about what is available in your local area for you and your children.

I want to go to college but I need childcare. What are my options?

If you’re a student at a further education college you can use the ‘Care to Learn’ scheme if you’re under 20. Visit the Care to Learn information page on

Also see our detailed guide for single parents of all ages about how to arrange childcare, tax credits and benefits while studying in further education.

I'd like to do a university course and I want to find out what my childcare options are?

You can apply for a childcare grant – see the childcare grant page on

Also see our detailed information about studying on a higher education course as a single parent, including childcare options and benefits and student finance.

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