Having two children quite close in age, meant we went a little green around the gills as we started to work out the cost of putting them both into childcare when I was due to return to work. Ettie was already in nursery and quite settled, but when we worked out the cost of putting Ollie in there too, the combined price made us wince. Childcare alone was going to cost more than I could earn in a day and by the time we added on commuting costs, I would have actually been paying to go to work. Childcare.co.uk
It was a that point that we decided to look into alternative childcare solutions, thinking it would be more cost effective to hire a childminder than to pay double nursery fees. But when I sat down to begin the search, the whole process became rather daunting. I mean where do you begin? I didn’t want just any random person from the internet looking after my babies!
Starting in the most obvious place, I tapped ‘childminders in XXX’ into Google and a couple of options came up, but there didn’t appear to be an obvious way to rate them or know whether they were telling the truth, and so referring back to my previous point, when push came to shove I wasn’t really happy with a simple Google search and so I knew the process was going to be a much bigger task.
Explaining my concern to a couple of friends up north (most of my Mum friends were back in Cumbria at that point), they recommended I try out Childcare.co.uk, explaining that it was really easy to use and that all of the Childminders registered come with a star rating and a reviews section where I could read what other parents thought of their care.
At a loss at where else to begin I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. The website itself is really bright and easy to navigate. You start your search by typing your requirements into the search bar across the top:
I was looking for : A childminder* within 3 miles of my location’ then I could filter the results depending on whether I was looking for an Ofsted registered provider in particular, or someone with special needs experience etc.
* Childcare.co.uk also allows you to connect with babysitters, nannies, nurseries, midwives, private tutors and schools.
Once all my requirements had been logged it was time to hit the ‘Search Now!’ button and I was given a list of local childminders together with their distance in miles from my home.
Each childminder is displayed using a recent photograph together with their name, hourly rates and short bio written by them explaining a little more about who they are. This makes it easy to see what you’re looking for at a quick glance. If you’re interested in knowing more about a particular person, you can click on their Profile and you are taken to a screen with a lot more information including their qualifications, a longer ‘About Me’ section, their experience, availability, fees, whether they offer pick up and drop offs at local schools. There’s also a section displaying electronic copies of any documents they have such as their DBS check and Ofsted Certificate and finally a ‘Reviews’ section so you can hear from other parents who have used that particular provider and get a feel for what they’re really like.
I found the ‘Availability’ section useful here as I knew we were only looking for someone who could look after Ettie and Ollie on certain days of the week, so I could see at a glance which providers were going to be suitable without me having to waste time emailing those who weren’t going to be free.
From the information provided I was able to narrow it down to a shortlist of candidates and was able to contact them directly through the website. However this is where my search stopped as it was round about the same time that I found out I was actually able to return to work part time, and so we wouldn’t have to pay for two children in childcare because Ettie would qualify for her free hours. That said I did find the service really useful, and should I ever need to find a childminder again, it would be the first place I look.
Finding someone to look after your child is daunting whatever the circumstances, particularly if you have never met them, but I found comfort in childcare.co.uk ‘s ability to display all providers in a similar manner so they were easy to compare. Because the site was so simple, it was easy to see at a glance how much experience someone had and whether they had the relevant certificates I was looking for. I also found reassurance in the reviews section and sites trust pilot score knowing the reviewers were real people and not just paid to log a comment.
For more information on being a Working Mum, check out my Mummy Juggle Series where I talk to many mums about their experience on returning to work after having children.