Looking after children

Caring for children often becomes more difficult when someone in the family has cancer.

You may have been diagnosed with cancer yourself, or be caring for someone who has cancer. Either way, you may be finding it hard to care for your children how you would like to.

This can be upsetting, but don’t feel guilty about asking for help. Family and friends are often more than happy to help by taking children to school or with everyday tasks such as shopping. This can give you more energy to do fun things with your children.

You could also speak to your employer about more flexible working hours. Many offer home-working or flexitime. Social services can provide practical support and there are also charities with experienced volunteers who can visit your home to help with childcare. There are options available if you are struggling to cope.

It is also a good idea to tell your child’s school or nursery so they can support your child too. Most children adapt surprisingly well to changes in family routine. They often learn that being part of a family means asking for and giving help when it’s needed.

Finding childcare

Childcare can be provided by:

  • experienced childminders, who look after a small number of children in their home
  • au pairs, who are usually untrained and live in your home. They help with childcare and household chores
  • day nurseries, which provide professional care for children 0-5 years old. This can be full time or part time
  • nannies, who look after children in your home. They may live in your home or visit daily. They are not always trained
  • crèches, which provide childcare for limited periods of time during the day
  • kids clubs, which are available before and after school for school-aged children

Local authority day nurseries in the UK can provide some free care to all children aged 3-4 years old. Costs for other childcare options vary according to what you want and where you live.

There are different kinds of help available towards childcare costs:

  • Child Tax Credit – this is available to anyone who cares for a child under 16 or a young person aged 16-19 in full-time education or training. This benefit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit over the next few years. Call the HMRC tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900 to apply
  • grants for school clothing – these are given to families on a low income if the parent or carer is claiming certain benefits, contact your local authority for more information
  • childcare vouchers from your employer – these are given by your employer and may continue while you are off work, visit hmrc for more information