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Childcare Options


What options are available to help you care for your child?

Choosing the type of childcare that will suit your family is an important decision and will be based on what is available to you, your working pattern, your child’s needs and the cost.

There are two types of childcare, registered and unregistered.

Childcare in England is registered and inspected by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). Childcare that is registered falls under one of three registers:

1) Early Years Register (EYR): This covers childcare for children up to the age of five until 31 August following their fifth birthday.

2) Compulsory Ofsted Register (OCR): This covers childcare for children aged five to seven inclusive (unless exempt).

3) Voluntary Ofsted Register (vOCR): This covers childcare for children aged eight and over and care for children of any age that is activity based or provided in the child’s own home. Only childcare that is registered can qualify for help with costs.

All three and four year old children and some eligible two year olds are entitled to 570 hours of free early education in each funded year.

For further information on free childcare and early years education for two, three and four year olds and other help with childcare costs click here.

Childcare options for children aged 0 – 5 years:


  • are self-employed child carers who will look after your child in their own home. If they care for children under the age of eight, they must be registered with Ofsted in England.
  • can often offer very flexible care. As they work with small groups of children, they may be able to offer more individualised care. They can also look after siblings of different ages.
  • will offer the same and play opportunities as other childcare settings such as messy play, arts, music, reading, cookery, imaginative play and out door play. They also will take children to the park, drop in sessions, the library and play groups. Sometimes childminders work with other childminders or employ assistants in order to care for a larger group of children or offer more one to one support where needed.
  • are usually paid on an hourly basis at a rate negotiated with the parent. Hourly rates vary around Hampshire. You'll need to discuss required hours, holiday pay and other terms and conditions and ensure that details of these are included in the contract you have with your childminder. You may be entitled to help with your childcare costs.

Childminder Agencies

Childminder agencies (CMA) are organisations designed to offer a ‘one-stop shop’ of services for both childminders and parents.

Organisations, from the Voluntary, Private and Independent sectors and local authorities can provide childminder agency services and must register with the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

Once registered with Ofsted, CMAs will attract existing childminders and new childminders who will register directly with the CMA. The CMA will offer training and business support and will quality assure their childminders to ensure that they provide a high quality and safe service for their parents and children.

It is anticipated that CMAs will offer parents a range of services to support them in finding a childminder and offer some additional services, such as cover, when a childminder is sick or on holiday. Each CMA will explain the range of services they provide.

Childminders have a choice as to whether to join a CMA or to be an Independent Childminder registered through Ofsted. It will be for agencies to determine the variety of services they will provide and associated charges, either to the childminder, parent, employer or others for those services.

As a minimum, agencies will be required to maintain a register of childminders, undertake the necessary quality assurance visits and provide the prescribed number of continuing professional development and support hours to their childminders. CMAs will become additional organisations in the childcare market and it is anticipated that these organisations will want to develop services based on what childminders and parents say they want.

Children's Centres

Children's centres provide a range of services, such as links to Jobcentre Plus and health support, to the families of children aged 0-5 years.

Some children's centres will provide on site childcare and early education services in, for example, a nursery; and some will provide information to parents about where you can access these types of services locally.

Centres are usually open from 8.00am to 6.00pm all year round and many offer other services such as drop-in sessions and community activities.

If the children's centre has a nursery (or drop in sessions), they should offer a range of play and learning activities including: messy play, arts, music, reading, cookery, imaginative play, construction and outdoor play.

Costs for a child’s place at a children’s centre nursery vary, but are sometimes subsidised by the local authority. You may be entitled to help with your childcare costs.

Day nurseries

Day nurseries look after and educate children aged 0-5.

They are usually open all day and a few are now opening up later in the evening and even at weekends.

There are different types of nurseries including private, community, council and workplace nurseries. However all nurseries are registered and inspected by Ofsted.

All nurseries will offer a range of play and learning opportunities for your child including: messy play, arts, music, reading, cookery, imaginative play, construction and out-door play.

Weekly costs will vary. Nursery costs can sometimes be subsidised by the local authority or by employers, and you may be entitled to other help with your childcare costs

Early education and nursery classes

Nursery classes are open school hours during term time and many are attached to a local primary school.

They will offer the same play and learning opportunities as other nurseries.

Children can attend all day or just on a sessional basis depending on the nursery policy.

Private nursery class costs will vary. You may be entitled to help with your childcare costs.

Nannies and home carers

Nannies and home carers are employed by parents to care for children at home and can be suitable for parents who need flexible childcare; who have a large family or who have a child with a disability.

Although many do have nursery nurse or childcare training, nannies and home carers do not have to hold qualifications. Nannies and home carers can join the Ofsted voluntary childcare register but they do not have to.

Parents are responsible for interviewing and checking the registration and all relevant references of nannies and home carers.

The costs of employing a nanny will vary depending on whether they live in or out, how many hours they work and any other duties. As their employer, parents are responsible for paying their tax and national insurance. If your nanny is registered with Ofsted you may be entitled to help with your childcare costs.

Playgroups and pre-schools

Playgroups/pre-schools provide play and education sessions lasting about 3 hours for children aged 2-5.

If a playgroup session lasts for more than two hours, and you leave your children in the care of staff, it will have to be registered with Ofsted.

Costs will vary so check with individual settings for details. You may be entitled to help with your childcare costs.

Family and friends

Family and friends may be able to provide a flexible childcare option, and are sometimes used in combination with registered childcare.

When a family member or friend cares for your child in your home, the care they provide does not need to be registered.

Care provided by a family member does not qualify for financial help unless:

• your family member is a registered childcare provider; and

• the care is not provided in your home; and,

• the care is provided to non-related children in addition to your child.

Childcare options for school age children and young people

Childminders can provide the flexible care that particularly working parents find helpful in order to balance their home and working life.

Parents might find it works well to combine the care of their child(ren) between a childminder and another setting. This also applies to using nannies, homecarers or family and friends that can also care for school age children and young people.

Out-of-school services/holiday clubs

Out-of-school services and holiday clubs offer play and care to school age children from 4-14 years.

Depending on the hours you need, you may want a breakfast club - open before school, an after-school club or a holiday play scheme - open during school holidays.

Many offer play opportunities, sports activities as well as quiet places for children to relax or complete homework.

Out-of-school services and holiday clubs can be run by the local authority, private companies or voluntary organisations and costs will vary. If the club is open to children aged eight and under and offers more than two hours of care and is not just activity based (such as a sports club), they will be registered with Ofsted. If it is registered, you may be entitled to help with your childcare costs.

Holiday club places often fill up quickly, so early registration is recommended.

How to find out more?

For further details about the childcare options and services available in Hampshire search on the Hampshire Local Offer website or the Family Information Service website.

For other useful information regarding childcare and early years education visit the Hampshire Family Information Service website.

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