Why I signed the childcare vouchers petition

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Gemma JohnsonChildcare costs are our biggest expense after the mortgage, so childcare vouchers are a lifeline for my family budget. Which is exactly why I am 100% behind the idea of using the scheme to save an extra £300 per year!

As working parents, we can sacrifice £55 of our salary per week to pay for childcare, but this level hasn’t changed since 2006, even though our living costs have gone up – and in some cases, our salaries have gone down.

So when I heard about the Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap campaign by Busy Bees Benefits, I couldn’t sign the petition fast enough. The campaign is urging the Government to raise the weekly childcare vouchers cap from £55 to £75 a week. When you do the maths that works out as just over £300 for each parent using the scheme.

Childcare costs

Parents looking to return to work all face the common dilemma of having to weigh up the benefits of a second salary over childcare costs to decide if it actually makes sense to go back to work.

Our childcare works out at about £300 per week roughly. I do a salary sacrifice through Kiddivouchers.com so I use childcare vouchers to take advantage of the tax break on my earnings. I get £243 of my monthly salary paid straight in to my Kiddivouchers.com account and then it is transferred by bank to our nanny. Simple!

Nanny or childminder?

Yes, you read right – we now have a nanny! And the difference between having a nanny and a childminder is huge (something that I didn’t realise or appreciate until I actually started looking into it further).

Our nanny comes to our house rather than me having to drop the kids off before work. She also washes and irons the children’s clothes, cleans up the toys at the end of the day and even does some light housekeeping duties. Now, when you commute four times a week to London (two hours each way), coming home to a tidy house is not to be sniffed at!

But finding our nanny was an emotional process. Back in January, I wrote a blog post about my quest to find a nanny or childminder to look after my two very cute, but very boisterous children after my sister-in-law (who happened to be an OFSTED registered childminder) gave us a few months’ notice.

It sent me into a total spin, I felt paralysed by fear of the unknown and tearful at the mere thought of a stranger looking after my babies, so I set upon a quest to find someone that I felt I could leave my children with whilst I brought home half of the bacon by working in London. I have to say, I was an emotional wreck for around three months; it got to the point where I would only have to look at my daughter and I’d start to fill up.

My hunt for a nanny

My first port of call on the back of comments on my blog post was to register on Childcare.co.uk on the monthly subscription plan. Although I didn’t end up sourcing my nanny through this route in the end, the website was a fantastic ‘matching’ service for parents and childminders/nannies. Can you believe, I actually recognised a few people on there from my area that I had no idea worked in the childcare field.

Luckily for me, after exploring numerous avenues, an email dropped into my inbox one day from a mum at my son’s school. I had never met her before but she had heard on the grapevine that I was looking for someone, so she recommended her nanny as her family’s needs had changed. I asked her when her nanny would be free and she said: “Straight after the Easter Break”. I couldn’t believe my luck.

I arranged to meet with the nanny and she turned out to be an absolute godsend. She had glowing references (from a family that I could actually talk to at the school gates), a CRB clearance and a degree in Kindergarten teaching – and best of all, she lived five minutes’ drive away so I could hunt her down at any given moment.

We snapped her up straight away and it has made such a huge difference in such a short space of time.

Paying our nanny

Understanding how childcare vouchers work can be tricky, but the payment side to employing a nanny can be even trickier to get your head around as it means National Insurance and tax and holiday pay too! There are quite a few agencies out there who will sort out the tax side to the arrangement for a small fee.

We pay £9 an hour NET from 8am – 5.30pm three days per week. I am fortunate enough be able to work from home on a Thursday, which means my son is at school and family members help out with my daughter. On a Friday my daughter goes to nursery until lunchtime and my husband works half day. This routine works out really well for us as the kids are only away from us three days a week and then we have four days in a row when either me, my husband or both of us are at home.

Childcare vouchers petition

I think it’s important for the government to recognise that parents need more support with childcare costs as going back to work doesn’t just have financial implications for families – emotional wellbeing should also play a part in this. We should be encouraging parents to return to work if they are feeling isolated or if they want to be able to reach certain career goals.

The whole MyFamilyClub team has signed the Mind the Gap – Raise the Cap petition. If this is an important topic for you too, make sure you add your signature!