- 62% of parents worried about how they will afford the one-week break
- A third expect to dip into their savings to cover costs
Rosie Murray-west, Financial Mail on Sunday
Parents up and down the country are bracing themselves for extra expense as the half-term holiday looms. Figures from the Post Office show that 62 per cent of parents are worried about how they will afford the one-week break – with nearly a third expected to dip into their savings to cover costs.
Many face an unenviable choice: spending money to entertain the children at home, or paying for childcare so that they can go to work.
The Family and Childcare Trust says that holiday childcare is both patchy and expensive. Anand Shukla, the charity’s chief executive, says: ‘Far too many parents face a never ending battle to secure affordable, quality childcare just so that they can go to work to provide for their families.’
Little star: Jessie Davidson, with parents Sara-Jayne and Mike, went to Super Camps
Vouchers meant Jessie could go to holiday club
Sara-Jayne Davidson was able to use childcare vouchers from her civil service job to pay for a recent holiday club for daughter Jessie, five.
‘Without the vouchers I don’t think I would have been able to go on working after I had children,’ says Sara-Jayne, from Coulsdon, South London. ‘They make a real difference.’
Jessie went to a Super Camps holiday club in Croydon, Surrey, over the summer holidays, where she took part in numerous organised activities including swimming. ‘She absolutely loved it,’ says Sara-Jayne, who works for the Land Registry as well as being a part-time fitness instructor.
‘The best thing is she even loved swimming there – she normally screams when she goes in the pool with me or my husband Mike.
‘It was also flexible – I could pay for a little bit more time in the evenings or mornings if we needed it. She’s already asking me when we can go back again.’
‘Childcare is expensive, but Super Camps compared really well with the childminder that we use in term times,’ says Sara-Jayne, 51.
The charity’s research shows that the average cost of a week of holiday childcare is now £115 and rising faster than both inflation and parents’ wages.
Shukla adds: ‘Many working parents hope that their childcare struggles will end when their children start school.
‘However, our research into holiday and out-of-school childcare shows the opposite is true. The system requires a complete overhaul but in the meantime employers and head teachers should help parents manage the school holidays.’
For those parents who cannot afford paid help, many use their own paid leave to cover the period while their children are on holiday. But then they find that the cost of entertaining their children soon mounts up.
Post Office figures show that parents expect to spend £229 entertaining their children over half-term. Almost a third will spend money on eating out, while other expenses include theme park entry, petrol, cinema trips and sporting activities such as swimming.
Henk Van Hulle, head of savings and investments at the Post Office, says: ‘With the long summer break only just behind us, and Christmas already on the horizon, the autumn half-term break will come at an inconvenient time for many parents.’
Height of fun: Camp Beaumont runs both residential and day camps
Whether choosing to entertain children yourself or to pay for childcare, there are ways to make the half-term week – or weeks, in some cases – less expensive.
Private holiday clubs run by national groups such as Super Camps, Barracudas and Camp Beaumont are one option.
It is possible to bring the cost down by using childcare vouchers if your employer has a scheme. These vouchers, which can be used to pay for Ofsted-registered childcare including holiday schemes, allow childcare costs to be taken out of pre-tax income.
If an employer offers vouchers, up to £55 a week tax-free can be claimed. A couple can both claim £55 a week if they are basic rate taxpayers.
Those who pay 40 per cent tax can claim £28 a week tax-free, while additional rate taxpayers can claim up to £25 a week. These schemes will be phased out next autumn and replaced with a new childcare tax break.
It can also be cheaper to book a full week of childcare in a club rather than selected days.
Guy Ker, managing director of Super Camps, says parents need to see these costs in the context of other half-term expenses.
He says: ‘I’ve got seven children and I know that when you go out costs can mount up. But if you book for the week, the daily price for an eight-hour day at a Super Camps venue comes down to about £35 a day, or just over £4 an hour with activities that range from quad biking to swimming.’
Local holiday clubs run by the council can prove a cheaper option but provision is patchy. The average cost of a council-run scheme is £96 a week, compared with £118 a week for privately run schemes.
Websites such as Netmums as well as local councils are good sources of information.
For older teenagers, the Government’s National Citizen Service can be one way of providing inexpensive skills training and entertainment.
The programme, spearheaded by Prime Minister David Cameron, is open to all 16 and 17-year-olds, and includes a residential programme. More information is available at the website ncsyes and the cost is £50 or less for a three-day residential course. Meanwhile, for parents who are trying to keep entertainment costs down at home, there are still plenty of cheap ways to entertain children.
Most cinema chains run children’s clubs in the holidays where they show films in the morning.
Odeon’s Kids Club offers tickets from £2.50 each and films this half- term include How To Train Your Dragon 2, Planes 2 and Maleficent.
Cineworld has a Movies for Juniors show on half-term mornings with tickets from £1.50 including a free fun pack.
Selected Vue cinemas charge just £1.75 a ticket or £3 for 3D films for children and accompanying adults every morning from October 25 to November 2.
On show: From How To Train Your Dragon 2
The Football Association offers free coaching sessions to girls and boys aged five to 11 during the school holidays.
To find your nearest session go to faskills.thefa.com/FindSession. Or try tennisforfree.com for tennis coaching lessons.
Free museums include Glasgow’s Burrell collection, National Museum Cardiff, Leeds Art Gallery and London’s Natural History and Science museums, and the Victoria Albert Museum.
Consumer website MoneySavingExpert provides details of museums and galleries nationwide that offer free entry.
For trips to theme parks and other attractions, booking online in advance is often the best way to get a cheaper deal.
If travelling by train, the website daysoutguide offers details of two for one tickets available to rail travellers on attractions throughout Britain.
Many families choose to save up Tesco Clubcard vouchers for holiday periods. For many top attractions £2.50 worth of Clubcard vouchers can be exchanged for £10 of entrance tickets.
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