This article contains all relevant information about care child services, child day nurseries and early years provision for young children. It also contains relevant links to care child jobs, child tax credits and care child vouchers.

Early years

With the government’s push to get more parents into work, there has also been a big expansion care for children with children’s centres, nurseries and early years services along with the provision of child tax credits and child care vouchers.  The government’s strategy is to provide good quality support to parents to help them into work, to provide families and children with joined up early years, health and education services to help combat poverty and deprivation.

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Several documents, acts and bills have been introduced to back up this strategy.
Key ones include:-

• Quality Protects

• Every Child Matters

• The 10 Year Strategy for Childcare 2004

• Children’s Act 2004
• Childcare Act 2006

Under the Childcare Act, which is the first act solely about child care and early years, councils have to assess whether there are enough child care services in their area and work with partners to provide flexible and comprehensive child care. More here 

For more on legislation

Child care costs

Help with costs of child care can be obtained from tax credits, which have to be claimed from the Inland Revenue, while child care vouchers can be obtained from the employer: both go towards the cost of child care. Families earning up to £50,000 can apply for tax credits and the average payment is £53.60 a week. By December 2005, more than 300,000 families were in receipt of the tax credit. There is also a childcare element of working families tax credit that pay 70 per cent of costs.
There are also a set of government start-up initiatives that provide guidance and grants for people wanting to set up childminding or nursery services.


The average cost for a full-time childminding place for a child under two is £141 in England and Scotland. Childminders usually look after children in their own home but to benefit from vouchers the childminder must be registered rather than in an informal set up such as a member of the extended family. Childminders are regulated and inspected by Ofsted.
The charity the National Childminding Association (NCMA) represents childminders in England and Wales and also offers advice and guidance to parents. It has nearly 50,000 members with more than 400 staff and works with Ofsted and councils. NCMA members have to “work towards” 10 quality standards, which include food and drink, safety, and management of children.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own separate bodies SCMA and NICMA.  

Nursery places

There are about 675,000 nursery places in the UK with about 85% take up. Nursery places can cost from £131 a week in Wales to just over £200 in London. Parents with children over three get a free nursery place and this too has an 85 per cent take-up. Nurseries usually provide education for a group of children in an educational setting up to the age of five. Ofsted regulates and inspects nurseries as well as childminders and early year clubs.

Early years website at provides information on childminders, nurseries, after-school and holiday clubs and education of young children.
The average cost a week of an after school club in the UK is between £34 and £38 for 15 hours, while a place at a summer scheme was about £77 a week (figures from The Daycare Trust). More on the government’s early years strategy.

Children’s centres

A key part of the early year strategy is the government’s plan to open 3.500 children’s centres by 2010, with the total cost estimated at £3.75 billion.
They offer children under five and their families services such as education, health, outreach for parents, childminding, drop-in sessions and support for children with special needs. They are a key part of the government’s Sure Start programme for children and families.

Childcare workforce

There are 2.8 million paid and 1.5 million voluntary workers in the children’s workforce (Children’s Workforce Strategy 2005). Nearly three-quarters are female although the government has been encouraging more men to enter the children’s workforce. Pay rates for early years posts are the lowest in the social care sector at an average of only £6 per hour (Labour Force Survey: Winter 2003). There is a union for children’s and young people’s workers which is part of the T&G.


Nannies can cost anything between £250 to £500 a week and are not regulated. They care for the child in the employer’s home but can live in with the family or elsewhere. Some also act as nursery nurses and have qualifications from the Nursery Nurse Examination Board.

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