Childcare & Early Years
AFF looks at a wide range of issues relating to childcare and early years, that affect Army families.
Some of the topics that we are currently investigating, lobbying for and monitoring include:
- nursery waiting lists in relation to postings
- priority on waiting lists and what this means
- early years provision in English in North Wales
- two-year-old funding for DLA children overseas
- childcare availability for dual serving families near units
- early years support funding from MOD and DfE.
By highlighting these issues we can work to change things for the better. If you have an issue, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
05 Oct - Extended FREE childcare entitlement in overseas locations
Government launches new schemes to help parents with childcare costs
The cost of childcare
MOD Sodexo childcare vouchers
Service Pupil Premium for early years - have your say
Childminding – a childcare and business option worth exploring
Are you posted overseas? Do you have children who are three or four years old?
The MOD has published a document giving information about free childcare entitlement in overseas locations. AFF has compiled a summary of the regulations. Read more
The MOD aims to provide services similar to those in England where possible, whilst recognising the support that is given elsewhere in the UK to all eligible Service Personnel.
Currently, the MOD provides 15 hours of childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year for three and four year olds in places at MOD-provided settings, or through access to the MOD Overseas Nursery Allowance.
Additional FREE hours
From 1 September 2017, eligible children can access an additional 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year.
The additional 15 hours will be available to families where both parents are working (or the sole parent is working in a lone parent family) a minimum of 16 hours each per week.
Parents each earning £100,000.00 or more do not qualify. The hours are measured for eligibility purposes on an average three-month period or an expectation.
The additional entitlement will be mirrored, where possible, in MOD locations overseas, using the same eligibility criteria defined under the 2016 Childcare Act above.
Please bear in mind that the additional entitlement has been piloted in various places across England, but there is no entitlement for any backdated payments for these periods.
For stability, there is a grace period if you find you become ineligible, which, where practical, is similar to what is found in England.
Where can you access it?
Where the MOD-provided settings have sufficient capacity, the additional entitlement will be provided through those settings, free of charge. Free childcare cannot be claimed when using childminders or nannies. If there are no places, then the additional entitlement will be provided through the MOD Overseas Nursery Allowance.
Does it matter where I work?
For dependants working overseas who pay Income Tax to HMRC or devolved equivalents, confirmation of eligibility is required from your employer (DBS).
For dependants working overseas as Locally Engaged Civilians (LECs) not paying Income Tax to HMRC or devolved equivalents, it will be the responsibility of the local Command through the LEC employer or agency, to confirm eligibility.
Dependants working overseas on the local economy will be required to provide proof from their employer in order to confirm their eligibility.
How to apply
If you qualify for the free 15 hours in an MOD-provided setting or, qualify for MOD Overseas Nursery Allowance and fulfil the eligibility criteria for the additional 15 hours’ entitlement, please complete Annex A found in the regulations.
The introduction of the new tax-free childcare scheme began on 28 April 2017.
Over time, tax-free childcare will replace childcare vouchers, which will close to new entrants from April 2018. Read more
Eligible parents with children under 12 (under 17 for disabled children) will be able to set up an online childcare account to pay their childcare providers directly.
There are some differences between the existing voucher scheme and the new one, including employment requirements and age limits.
AFF would like to make sure that every Army family has access to the right information in time to make the right choice. Make sure you don’t miss out on the right scheme for you.
How does tax-free childcare work?
The existing scheme is a salary sacrifice scheme run by Sodexo. Please see more in the article below. The new scheme works slightly differently.
For every £8 you pay in, the government will add £2, up to a maximum contribution of £2,000 per child, per year (£4,000 per year for disabled children). To qualify, you and any partner must each expect to earn (on average) at least £120 per week (equal to 16 hours at the National Minimum or Living Wage) and each earn no more than £100,000 per year.
You can’t use tax-free childcare at the same time as childcare vouchers, Universal Credit or tax credits. You can use it with the 15 hours and 30 hours’ schemes.
Use the Childcare Checker to find out which providers have signed up in your area. The scheme is gradually becoming available to different age groups, and all eligible parents should be able to access the scheme by the end of 2017.
If you have registered with the ‘keep me updated’ tool, you’ll be notified when you become eligible.
UK based MOD personnel will have the same access to these new Childcare Choices as any other citizen, in line with the Armed Forces Covenant. Since 2013, the MOD has been working closely with other government departments to ensure these changes can be mirrored, as far as is reasonably practicable, for entitled MOD personnel based outside the UK. Please check locally for more details if you are overseas.
Full details of the required changes or additions to MOD policies will be published shortly, once the changes have been published on the government’s Childcare Choices web page.
The MOD Directorate of Children and Young People (DCYP) have created a handy information poster on the two schemes available to help with childcare costs. It highlights the eligibility criteria for each scheme and the points you should consider if you are eligible for both schemes.
Find out more
To find out more, visit www.childcarechoices.gov.uk. The childcare calculator at www.gov.uk/childcare-calculator can help you compare the government’s childcare offers and check what works best for your family. Alternatively, email DCYP-DCYP-Mailbox@mod.uk for further information.
A choice of childcare options should be available for all Army families, but because of Service life, some are easier to access than others. Read more
Day nurseries: make sure your name is down on the waiting list as soon as possible, even before you have a confirmed posting order.
Nannies and Au Pairs: Nannies may be qualified, but au pairs are usually not. There are restrictions for au pairs on their working hours, and there is a specified age below which you should not leave your little one with them in sole care on a regular basis.
Both can live in, although you can also have a daily nanny; you will need to inform housing to let them know you have someone living in your quarter.
In certain cases, you may be entitled to have an extra bedroom.
Childminders: Live locally, should be registered and will be inspected by OFSTED.
They may offer early years education, and they may have other staff working for them.
The Local Authority (LA) will have a specific page for childcare and vacancies. You can also follow these links, depending on where you live:
A survey in 2015 by the Family and Childcare Trust found that the cost of sending a child under two years to nursery part-time has risen by 5.1% since 2014 and 33% since 2010. The cost of part-time care from a childminder has also risen by 4.3% since 2014.
So what does this mean for Army families? Read more
For a significant number of Army families, the responsibility of childcare falls to the spouse.
This can create barriers to employment, especially if you’re unable to find employment with pay and hours that match the childcare provision in your area.
When free early education was expanded to include three-year-olds, there was a 3% increase in the employment rate of mothers of a child of this age.
However, when both parents do work, the survey found that only 43% of councils had enough childcare provision for them, a drop of 11% since 2014.
Many Army postings are to rural areas with limited childcare choice - shorter hours and a high demand for places; this, coupled with a-typical working patterns, can leave you questioning the practicalities of becoming a working spouse.
The survey found that, generally, parents are now paying more per hour of childcare to subsidise free nursery places for two-year-olds as some providers feel that they do not receive sufficient funding to cover their costs.
Unsurprisingly, London had the highest rate of part-time childcare costs across the board with the next highest area for nursery care being the South East; Yorkshire and Humberside generally had the lowest childcare costs.
What is AFF doing?
AFF raised the issue of childcare with the previous Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Anna Soubry MP. We believe that the MOD needs to do more to subsidise childcare in light of the many challenges that Army families face.
If you’re struggling to access childcare in your area, contact AFF Education and Childcare Specialist, Lucy Scott at email@example.comBack to top
MOD Sodexo childcare vouchers are a salary sacrifice tax-saving scheme specifically for registered childcare.
Paper or e-vouchers can be used to pay for childcare either for children who have not yet started school, or for before and after school care and holiday clubs, saving you over £900. Read more
If your soldier wishes to claim Sodexo Armed Forces childcare vouchers, you will need to check that your childcare provider is registered. Dual serving? It is possible for you both to claim for childcare vouchers.
Army families are able to use the vouchers for any Ofsted regulated childcare or equivalent, including regulated MOD Schools childcare overseas. The vouchers can also be used for the boarding element of school fees providing this is clearly shown on bills and invoices.
New proposals outlined by the government are due to be implemented in 2017. AFF will continue to monitor this as the changes take place.
For more information, visit www.modchildcare.co.uk/armed-forces/ or call MOD Freephone: 0800 066 5075
The Gov.UK website has a section on ‘Tax free childcare: 10 things parents should know’. Click here for more information including what the new scheme will be like.
AFF recognises that the childcare voucher scheme is very important to a large number of families. If you’re encountering problems with securing childcare vouchers, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have a three or four year old and wish to access free early years education? The number of hours, its name and the choice may vary but, wherever you are, free early years education should be available. Read more
Where can I access online information and support?
Family information services (FIS) are available via local authority (LA) websites.
For particular details about each area of the UK, please see the links below. Northern Ireland deserves a special mention as it has an app that is an online directory of registered childcare provision and family support services; type FSNI into the search box of your app store.
Overseas settings information is available on our website and via the MOD Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS).
In which type of childcare setting can I access the free hours?
All registered childcare including private day nurseries, children’s centres, pre-schools, FS1 settings and childminders can offer these hours, but the options of when you can take the hours may vary.
When does the free entitlement start?
Usually the term after your child’s third birthday.
What about free early years funding for my two year old?
Army families do not generally fit the criteria and therefore will not receive this funding. A handful of areas offer this to Army families, and also a few areas offer this on a referral basis, but both of these cases are the result of LA decisions made locally.
Find out more on your LA’s website.
What are FS1 and FS2?
Foundation Stage 1 or FS1 is the term used in MOD Schools settings for children who are three or four and in the year before they start school. FS2 is the equivalent of reception or primary 1, depending on birthdays and area.
What is headcount week?
This happens at the beginning of term for the setting to access funding. If you move after this, it is important to let the provider that you left know as well as where you are moving to, for funding purposes.
Will I receive free transport?
No, there is currently no entitlement to funding for early years transport either in the UK or overseas.
Currently there is no specific funding for early years children. This is something that AFF is monitoring and gathering evidence about.
To have your say on this, please email your experiences and let us know why you think Service children under five need this funding to support the mobility and separation in their lives.
You can email the Education and Childcare Specialist, Lucy Scott, at email@example.com
If you’re either looking for local childcare in a more home-type setting for your children, or are exploring the option of looking after other children in your quarter, then childminding may fit the bill. Read more
Looking for a childminder?
Registered childminders look after children under eight years old for more than two hours at a time, usually at home. They are inspected in the UK by Ofsted in England, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate in Wales (CSSIW), the local Health and Social Services Trust in Northern Ireland, the Care Inspectorate in Scotland and the British Forces Early Years’ Service (BFEYS) or SSAFA overseas.
It’s possible to find a childminder that can cover different hours to suit shift work for example, or in some cases overnight care, if you’re juggling things on your own for a bit without family nearby.
Thinking of becoming a childminder?
“This is an excellent business to take round with you when you move and it’s the most rewarding job I have done.”
Childminders complete training which includes a pre-registration course and paediatric first-aid. The new Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce is now the industry standard qualification.
Childminders need to show they conform to the standards set in each area of the UK and registration certificates must be displayed. It can take 2-3 months to complete registration.
Childminders obtain public liability insurance cover as a requirement of registration and also complete Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) forms. If you have other people living at home, it’s likely they will also need to complete this form.
Contact your LA as they will have lots of advice on registering and training. There are also websites that can help.
Childminding in SFA
Write to the Garrison Commander and DIO for permission to run a business if you live in SFA and include any changes to the quarter. If you live in SSFA you should contact the Substitute Accommodation helpdesk.
The MOD will not fund any changes to your home for your business and you will need to put right any changes you make before you move.
Google: ‘Running a business in your service home’ for more information, and download the CarillionAmey guide.
Contact your new LA and advise your registration provider, your new Garrison Commander and DIO.
Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) helpline for childcare providers will give you advice for the childcare element of working tax credit and there is also advice on running your business on their website. Telephone: 0345 300 3900 or visit www.hmrc.gov.uk/webinars/self-employed.htm to watch a webinar.
The British Forces Early Years’ Service (BFEYS) regulates childminding in SFA in North Western Europe meeting English standards. Telephone 0049 2161 472 4644 or email BFG-HQ-G1-BFEYS-Dir@mod.uk
SSAFA Forces Help give advice about everywhere else. Call 0207 463 9229
UK wide advice
The following links may help you:
- In England, childminders register and are inspected by Ofsted. Visit www.ofsted.gov.uk or telephone: 0300 123 1231.
- Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) offers advice and a useful training i-brochure with training options and also a PACEY Local service. Call 0300 003 0005. PACEY’s Cardiff office can be contacted on 0845 880 1299 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Health and Social Services Trust inspect childminders annually in NI. Visit www.hscni.net; there are local telephone numbers for each area.
- Northern Ireland Child Minding Association (NICMA): 0871 200 2063 or www.nicma.org
- Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWIS) is also known as the Care Inspectorate in Scotland. Telephone 0845 600 9527 or visit www.scswis.com
- The Scottish Child-minding Association website: www.childminding.org
- Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales: 0300 062 8800 or email@example.com
The HIVE is also a hive of information regarding childminding!