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nursery-kids government childcare funding

Nursery fees and funding in 2024

By Childcare and Nannying, Finance
by Ben Murray
Dukes Education Group Ltd

As a parent of young children, nursery fees are often one of the most expensive outgoings of the household; in many cases as much as or more than rent or mortgage payments. The subject of funding for Early Years care and education seems to be a hot topic of conversation for many successive Governments. However, proposed significant changes in 2024 look to finally signal a package of benefits for parents paying for childcare, which better responds to the realities of this considerable cost. Although the reforms are not perfect, this year and next we should see eligibility extend to more families than ever and a saving in real terms on nursery fees. This, at a time where every other cost is increasing, can only mean a bit of relief for working families.

What does eligibility look like currently?
Some two year olds can get up to 15 hours of free childcare per week for 38 weeks of the year. This adds up to 570 hours over the year, however, for nurseries that are open for 51/52 weeks of the year that same number of hours can be ‘stretched’. In reality, this means that for nurseries that operate all year round, your child’s 15 hours of free childcare becomes more like just over 11 hours of free childcare each week. Current eligibility for funding for two year olds is linked to household income and generally applies if your household receives other forms of Government support.

The term ‘free’ has also been a topic of debate with the current levels of funding, as the Government contribution covers the cost of care in ratios of 1:4 for two year olds. Most nurseries will then charge parents an additional fee for elements of their proposition that extend above the staffing costs, such as meals, extracurricular activities, trips, clubs, consumables and supplies. These elements may otherwise be included in the full fee without funding.

All three and four year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare each week for 38 weeks a year, which can be stretched, the same way as two year olds funding, depending on the childcare provider. You do not need to apply for this funding as registered nurseries will do so on your behalf and apply this to your nursery fee invoice.

In addition to this, eligible working families with three and four year olds can receive an extra 15 hours of funding, up to 30 hours of free childcare in total each week. Again, this is available over 38 weeks a year so may need to be stretched to cover your child’s place if attending a nursery all year round, meaning just over 22 hours of funded childcare can be used each week.

What proposed changes are coming into place in 2024?
From April 2024, the entitlement to 15 hours of free childcare for two year olds is expected to extend to include eligible working families, not just those that generally receive other forms of Government support.

The term ‘working families’ has attracted Government criticism due to the thresholds at which the funding applies. We currently understand this to be, working parents who individually earn more than £8,670 (from April 2023) but less than £100,000 per year are those that are eligible.

If you’re in a couple, the rules apply to both of you, so you must both earn at least £8,670 and neither one of you can earn more than £100,000. (Taken from

This means that the accepted maximum household income to be eligible for the new funding is almost double if you are a two parent household, than that of a single parent household. Many high-profile voices within the Early Years sector are currently challenging the Government on this decision.

From September 2024, this same entitlement is proposed to apply to parents of children from nine months old, which is a huge step forward to support parents back to work and the first time that some of the youngest children have become eligible for funding.

The next phase of changes takes place in September 2025, where eligible working parents of all children over the age of nine months will be entitled to 30 hours of childcare each week.

Like the existing offer, depending on your provider these hours can be used over 38 weeks of the year or up to 51/52 weeks totalling 1,140 hours in the year.

Where can I check my eligibility?
The Government’s ‘Childcare Choices’ website features a handy calculator which details the exact level of support your family will receive, and how to access it. This can be found at and provides information on current and upcoming entitlements for 15 and 30 hours free childcare.

To support your application for 15 and 30 hours free childcare and access your unique code which you will need to claim the entitlement, you can enter your details at where the step-by-step guide will detail what you need to do.

Your chosen nursery should now be in a good place to provide details on the cost of childcare within the new entitlements, detailing the levels of funding that can be accessed as well as any additional charges.

It is important to remember that childcare providers may administer the funding in a variety of different ways which can sometimes make comparing nurseries on cost more difficult. The best way to do this will be to ask the setting for fees payable for a full-time place with and without funding, and a place for the exact amount of hours/days you require with and without funding. This will give you a much clearer picture about the actual fees you will be paying each month and how the nursery has applied the 15 or 30 hours entitlements.

To discuss early years funding at our nurseries in Sussex and to book a tour, please contact your chosen setting directly. For Reflections Nursery and Forest School in Worthing, call 01903 251518 or visit For Hove Village nurseries in Brighton and Hove, call 01273 037449 or visit

To discuss early years funding at Riverside Nursery Schools in Surrey and to book a tour, please call 020 3475 0455 or visit

education for all

Not all independent schools are inaccessible and elitist

By Education, Finance
by Polly Rutt
Rydes Hill Preparatory School

Sarah Norville has been a Headteacher for 16 years, 11 of which were spent in the state sector whilst the past five years have been in the independent sector. Her experience ranges from working in an inner-city environment to the leafy suburbs of Guildford. Here, she describes what in her view are the fundamental differences between a state and independent education and advises parents on what they should consider when thinking about a school for their child.

How would you describe the current landscape of schooling in Surrey?
Surrey’s good state schools are oversubscribed with a lot of competition to get into them. This often means parents don’t always get their first choice of school. However, in Surrey, there are many great schools offering very different things. This allows parents to locate a school which speaks to the individual needs and character of their child.

Having gained a lot of experience in both the independent and state sectors, how would you describe the differences between them?
I would say that the biggest difference is around the freedom independent schools have when defining the wider curriculum which is often built around the real-life needs of pupils. State schools generally have a greater focus on maths and English as performance in this area is judged by OFSTED. As independent schools have smaller class sizes and a longer school day, they can reach the same maths and English standard within less time, which enables them to offer a wider breadth of subjects with specialist teachers. The offerings of enrichment activities, depend on the school. Independent schools consistently offer an abundance of clubs and extra curriculars often led by their specialist teachers. However, I also know of many state schools that have an amazing after-school offering for their pupils.

Have you noticed any common misconceptions that people may have on either independent or state schools?
Definitely! Many people think that all independent schools are like Harrow and Eaton where the parents are incredibly wealthy and their children live a life of extreme privilege. This is not my experience of the independent sector. Most pupils at my school have two hard working parents who are making sacrifices to prioritise a good education for their child. Of course, those types of schools exist, but not all independent schools are inaccessible and elitist. On the flip side, some independent school parents believe that a state school education is not as high quality. Actually, in terms of academic results, maths and English in particular, their outcomes are just as good which is why so many state school children go on to independent senior schools and top universities.

In your experience, what commonly drives a parent to choose an independent school?
Parents tend to like the smaller class sizes at independent schools which help to ensure that their child doesn’t get lost in a busy classroom environment. Independent school class sizes typically range from 15-20 whereas state school class sizes can go beyond 30. In addition, parents are attracted to the breadth of curriculum offered at independent schools.

What are the main barriers that prevent parents from choosing an independent school and do you see any ways they can be overcome?
Cost is probably the main barrier for a lot of people. However, there are options available that may be helpful. For example, most independent schools have bursary schemes that are specifically for families that without a bursary, wouldn’t have access to the education on offer. Many independent schools offer scholarships, which are based on the merits of a child, such as their academic ability. Their success would secure a percentage off the school fees – which varies across schools. In addition to cost, some parents worry that they won’t ‘fit in’. However, in my experience independent schools can be both socioeconomically and ethnically diverse and shouldn’t be overlooked.

What advice would you give to any parent currently considering a school for their child?
Your child has one chance, one education and quite often one school, it is therefore critical to visit as many schools that are a possibility for your child as you can. You should base your decision on your gut feeling, not what anyone else tells you as what is a great school for one child, may not fit so well for another. My Head of Nursery says that when you go and visit a school it should feel like it’s giving you a hug, and if it doesn’t, it’s not the right school for your child. Ultimately, we are talking about four and five year olds starting their educational journey. It’s important that they settle in quickly, feel safe, valued and confident – these things can’t happen if it doesn’t ‘feel right’.

Rydes Hill is an outstanding independent preparatory school and nursery in Guildford, educating girls from 3-11 and boys from 3-7.

school fees

Can you afford private school?

By Education, Finance
by Graham Bond
Bursar, Burgess Hill Girls

According to School Fees Checker (, the average annual fees for an independent school in the UK are £20,480 for day pupils and £34,790 for boarders. It is widely acknowledged in the UK media that families are finding it increasingly difficult to afford a private education. Given the current cost-of-living crisis, it is reasonable to assume that this situation has worsened.

As an independent school in Sussex, we are committed to offering competitive fees and maximising accessibility. In fact, we have managed to maintain consistent fees in recent years, without even adjusting them for inflation. However, it is important to acknowledge that overall, fees in the private education sector have had to rise over the past few decades to cover the increasing costs of facility development and maintenance, as well as the recruitment and retention of high-quality teaching staff.

So if you aspire to provide your children with a private education but have concerns about financing, what can you do? Here are several options for you to consider.

Most schools have a bursary fund set aside to offer means-tested financial support to those families who do not have the necessary income or financial resources to afford a private education.

Most schools also offer scholarships with discounts offered to students, typically for those with outstanding talents in sport or the arts or exceptional academic performance.

Financial aid
In addition to financial support offered by schools themselves, there are a number of independent organisations that might be able to offer help with school fees. The Educational Trusts’ Forum has a directory of quite a few.

Payment plans
Suppliers like Premium Credit ( and My School Fee Plan ( allow you to pay your school fees by easy to manage monthly direct debits. Some schools might also offer this option directly.

Grandparent support
If you know that your parents want to eventually pass on some money to you or your children it might be worth having the conversation now to see if they might be willing to invest in their education. Up to £3,000 per year can be gifted tax free or for larger donations they might want to set-up a family business or trust, both of which can be used to pay school fees.

Employer support
Some employers may provide support for paying your childrens’ fees via arrangements including; payment of fees as part of your remuneration package, employer scholarship schemes, salary sacrifice and tax free childcare schemes. If you are working in the Armed Forces you can apply for the Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) to help with boarding school fees. On top of this, many boarding schools, including Burgess Hill Girls, offer additional discounts to families in the Armed Forces.

Go hybrid
If you really want your child to benefit from a private education but do not believe you will be able to afford the full fourteen years from age four to eighteen, you might want to consider a hybrid option. Many families opt for state education until senior school, allowing more time to save. In UK counties with state-funded grammar schools, some families opt for private education at a younger age with the hope that the academic advancements offered in these schools can increase their chances of getting into a grammar school at age eleven.

Start saving early
You are sure to have a lot more disposable income before children arrive so why not start saving early? You can always divert the money into another investment if your plans change. Even better, consider investing your savings to grow your private school pot quicker. Be sure to make use of tax-free savings and investments like ISAs or pensions, if you are 55 or older when your children are still at school you can take up to 25% as a lump sum.

Sibling discounts
Many private schools offer additional discounts when the second or third sibling attends the school.

Consider extra costs
Be sure to understand what you get from your school fees. For example at Burgess Hill Girls, meals, after-school clubs and wrap-around care are included. At other independent schools you might have to pay extra.

Consider extra savings
Instead of extra costs you might be surprisingly pleased to hear that an independent school, particularly a prep school, can offer savings, so the real cost is not as much as you might think. Due to government funding and savings on childcare, clubs and meals we have calculated that the first year in our Prep School for some families might cost as little as £260 per month!

Speak to the school
Most independent schools will offer tailored options for paying school fees. For example, some might offer discounts if you pay a significant amount of fees upfront. Others might be willing to extend your payments for several years after your child has left to spread out the cost.

Shop around
Fees do vary. For example, take our home county of Sussex where prep school annual fees vary from £6,600 to £22,290, annual senior school day fees vary from £14,190 to £28,260, and annual full boarding fees vary from £31,800 to £57,690. Typically the highest performing schools are the most selective and the most expensive but that does not guarantee they will be suitable for your child, even if they do pass the entrance exams. We would advise choosing the school that works best for your child, and where you think they will do best. Hopefully, it has fees that will work for you too. But as you would with any significant outlay, and this must surely be one of your biggest, try out a few schools and see if you can achieve further discounts via scholarships or bursaries if either is a potential option for your family. If neither, you might get a firm no, but there is no harm in asking for a discount!

Do your homework
Once you are down to your final shortlist it is time to really work out the numbers. Look at how the school’s fees increase as your child moves up the school and ask for an estimate of how fees might increase from year to year. For a true comparison you should work out the total cost for the length of time your child might be at the school, including any significant extras in addition to the fees.

If you are keen to educate your child privately but uncertain whether you have the appropriate finance, we hope this article has given you a thorough understanding of the costs and potential savings you can make. If you would like any further advice we would be delighted to speak with you. Contact our admissions team to arrange an informal chat.

To find out more about Burgess Hill Girls visit

claim holiday camp money

FREE holiday clubs for eligible children: What is HAF and how can it help me?

By Childcare and Nannying, Education, environment, family, Finance, Holiday camps

Since 2021 the government has funded a programme called HAF (Holiday, Activities and Food programme) across all areas of the country.

Research has shown that the school holidays can be pressure points for some families. For some children this can lead to a holiday experience gap, with some children being:
• Less likely to access organised holiday activities.
• More likely to experience ‘unhealthy holidays’ in terms of nutrition and physical health.
• More likely to experience social isolation.

In response to this research there are now a large number of holiday club providers who are offering HAF places to eligible children (from reception to year 11).

The aims of the programme are to ensure children:
• Eat healthily over the school holidays.
• Are active during the school holidays.
• Take part in engaging and enriching activities which support the development of resilience, character and wellbeing.
• Be safe and not to be socially isolated.
• Have a greater knowledge of health and nutrition.

Currently a very low percentage of those eligible are actually using their free places. It is really important to raise the profile of this programme across all areas to ensure it reaches as many children and families as possible. The benefits and opportunities this programme offers are huge, however many families are put off because they do not realise they are eligible or because they don’t understand what it means.

For any parent or carer who receives any financial support for their children it is worth exploring this further. There are a wide range of clubs that offer HAF spaces and we need to make sure these places are filled to ensure the continued funding of the programme. Whenever you see HAF activities being advertised please help spread the word and let’s get this great programme out to as many families as possible.

For further information please visit


Love thy neighbour

By Finance, Food & Eating, Mental health, Special support needs
by Sally-Ann Potter
Blossom and Bloom Day Nursery

The word ‘struggle’ is by definiton to ‘make forceful efforts to get free of restraint or constriction’. So really, using the word ‘struggle’ to describe the financial difficulties so many are facing isn’t too dramatic when you think about it. The rising cost of living has seen children being stripped of ‘luxuries’ that were previously a standard part of their childhood. Swimming lessons, language lessons, playdates, day trips – all the things you enjoy doing with your children that were potentially taken for granted before our energy prices rose, and paying £400 per month for your electricity meant you perhaps could no longer afford these extra curricular activities.

Working so closely with a wide variety of families, some who know financial struggle and live hand-to-mouth and some who don’t, it has become apparent that there isn’t anyone who isn’t negatively affected by the cost of living crisis.

I’ve spoken to families who are broken; who are coming into nursery and saying they’re on their last nappy and won’t be paid for another few days, who have run out of baby milk for their newborn or because their electric meter has been cut off and it’s freezing cold.

Some days it feels as though we are living in a really depressing feature film. The damage the pandemic did to people’s mental health seems minimal compared to the pressure to keep a roof over your head and provide for your family.

So, what can we do to help each other out? Where are we able to be a bit more selfless and make a difference? Little ripples of kindess could turn into big waves and be the change we need. Maybe something as small as putting a tin of beans in the food bank at the supermarket is the most you can manage. Have you ever opened a packet of nappies, used one and realised they’re the wrong size and you can’t return them? Perhaps you could pass them onto a friend or your nursery? If you’re not able to offer any financial support, maybe you have some clothes you can donate to a clothing bank? It might seem like it isn’t significant but it is. Sometimes we don’t see the benefit of our kindness and that’s OK. It’s OK to do something to help someone without knowing if it ever did help. It probably did and that’s enough.

I live in a community that regularly sees overwhelming acts of kindness. For example, there is a house down the road which has put a shed up in their front garden that offers food that struggling families can go and help themsleves to. People maybe don’t take advantage of it, but it’s respected and appreciated and lots of people donate in order to help each other out.

We have recently opened a baby bank at our nursery. Parents can discreetly go and help themselves to anything in there that they might need. They have a code to help themselves at any time. We reached out to our local community for donations and had an amazing response. We have donations of formula, nappies, baby wipes, baby clothes and toys.

As a setting, we have taken the decision to freeze our prices, offer two meals a day for free and introduce a policy that we only charge paying parents for the hours they are using, meaning they no longer have to pay childcare fees when their child is poorly and they have to take an unpaid day from work to care for them.

What if every single person did something small to help a stranger? What would the world look like then?

For more information please contact Sally-Ann at or call 07939 620934


Parental alienation

By Finance, Legal

In this issue of the magazine, Jennie Apsey, Solicitor in the Family Department at Dean Wilson LLP, looks at the issue of parental alienation.

In recent years, there has been a significant amount of media attention around the phrase ‘parental alienation’. Most family solicitors would report that up until three or four years ago, this was not an issue that was raised as a concern by parents, or at least such behaviour did not have a specific name, nor was it a recognised phenomenon. It is now something that arises regularly when discussing difficulties with child arrangements and co-parenting issues post separation, albeit true parental alienation remains a relatively rare phenomenon and what most parents are actually talking about is high-level conflict with the other parent or implacable hostility.

So what is parental alienation?
The term ‘parental alienation’ is not very well defined, in fact there is no single or fixed definition. In essence, it is the concept of a child rejecting a parent with whom they have previously had a positive relationship, seemingly without good reason. Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) define parental alienation as “when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.”

Parental alienation is therefore the process of psychologically manipulating a child into showing fear, disrespect, anger, or hostility towards a parent with the alienating parent’s aim being to exclude the other parent from the child’s life. It is characterised by the child showing extreme negativity towards the alienated parent.

What are the potential warning signs of parental alienation?
• Your child starts to criticise you unfairly without evidence or justification.
• Your child suddenly refuses to see or speak to you for no apparent reason, particularly where there has been no trigger event.
• Your child appears to only hold negative feelings towards you and does not seem able to see any positives in your relationship.
• Your child claims that their criticism of you is as a result of their own thinking when it is clear that their ideas have been fed to them by the alienating parent.
• Your child shows no remorse after telling you they hate you.
• Your child is also directing negative feelings or hatred towards other family members, like grandparents on your side of the family.

What can I do if I suspect my ex-partner of parental alienation?
If you suspect parental alienation, it is important to seek early legal advice. It may be necessary to make an application to the Court under the Children Act 1989 for a Child Arrangements Order. The Court will need to distinguish whether the alienation comes directly from the child or from the influence and manipulation of the other parent. It is common for a fact-finding hearing to take place to establish the factual matrix of the case before Cafcass are directed to write a Section 7 report. A Section 7 report will involve both parents and the child being spoken to separately, along with any other relevant parties, for example other key family members or the child’s school.

Cafcass will assess the child and identify any alienating behaviours. The Section 7 report will report the outcome of the assessment and provide recommendations as to the next step. In very serious cases of parental alienation, the Court may decide that a child should be removed from the care of the alienating parent and placed with the alienated parent to prevent further emotional harm to the child.

As children get older, their views are given increasing weight by the Court. Where an older child has clearly expressed their wishes not to see the other parent, the Court must carefully explore the basis of this resistance before overriding it. In other words, establish whether it has come from the child’s independent thoughts or through manipulation by the resident parent.

The Court will always make its decision with careful reference to the Welfare Checklist found under Section 1 (3) of Children Act 1989:
• The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned while considering the understanding and age of the child.
• The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
• The likely effect on the child if circumstances are changed as a result of the Court’s decision.
• The child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics which will be relevant to the Court’s decision.
• Any harm the child has suffered or may be suffering.
• Capability of the child’s parents (or any other person the Court finds relevant) at meeting the child’s needs.
• The powers available to the Court in the given proceedings.

Early assessment of allegations, prompt intervention and careful consideration of the wishes and feelings of the child are key in cases where parental alienation is suspected. The Family Department at Dean Wilson LLP is highly experienced and able to call on a wealth of other professionals such as family consultants, to assist in cases of this nature.

Dean Wilson LLP’s reputation has been built upon our ability to deliver and exceed our clients’ expectations. For over 100 years our success has been founded upon our client focused approach, backed by the knowledge and expertise of our lawyers.

As an ABC reader you can call the Family Department on 01273 249200 to arrange a no obligation telephone discussion and, if required, a fixed-fee meeting.

Youngsters could be missing out on a stash of cash

By family, Finance

Tens of thousands of teenagers in the UK who have not yet claimed their matured Child Trust Funds savings could have thousands of pounds waiting for them, reminds HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Child Trust Funds are long-term savings accounts set up for every child born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011. To encourage future saving and start the account, the government provided an initial deposit of at least £250.

The savings accounts mature when the child turns 18 years old. Eligible teenagers, who are aged 18 or over and have yet to access their Child Trust Fund account, could have savings waiting for them worth an average of £2,100.

If teenagers or their parents and guardians already know who their Child Trust Fund provider is, they can contact them directly. This might be a bank, building society or other savings provider.

Alternatively, they can visit GOV.UK and complete an online form to find out where their Child Trust Fund is held.

Many eligible teenagers who have yet to claim their savings might be starting university, apprenticeships or their first job. The lump-sum amount could offer a financial boost at a time when they need it most.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s Second Permanent Secretary and Deputy Chief Executive, said: “Teenagers could have a pot of money waiting for them worth thousands of pounds and not even realise it. We want to help you access your savings and the money you’re entitled to. To find out more search ‘Child Trust Fund’ on GOV.UK.”

An estimated 6.3 million Child Trust Fund accounts were set up throughout the duration of the scheme, containing about £9 billion. If a parent or guardian was not able to set up an account for their child, HMRC automatically opened a savings account on the child’s behalf.

Teenagers aged 16 or over can take control of their own Child Trust Fund if they wish, although the funds can only be withdrawn once they turn 18 years old.

Where children have a Child Trust Fund, families can still pay in up to £9,000 a year tax-free. The account matures once the child turns 18 and no further money can be deposited. They can either withdraw the funds from the matured Child Trust Fund account or reinvest it into another savings account.

Until a withdrawal or transfer the money stays in an account that no-one else has access to.

The Child Trust Fund scheme closed in January 2011 and was replaced with Junior Individual Savings Accounts (ISA).

To find out more visit

kiddies christmas

Coping at Christmas

By Christmas, Finance, Toys

by Edmond Chan, Childline Supervisor
Photography by Tom Hull – the adults and children photographed are models

Christmas can be an exciting time when families get together to celebrate. Lots of us look forward to it all year. But Christmas isn’t a magical time for everyone.

Christmas can be a difficult time for many different reasons – from family arguments to feeling lonely. Looking at social media it’s easy to believe that everyone around you is having the perfect Christmas.

And it can be hard to escape the holiday season sometimes, particularly when you don’t enjoy Christmas and everyone’s talking about it.

One 16 year old girl who contacted Childline told our volunteer counsellors: “I lost my grandad earlier this year. This is going to be my first ever Christmas without him and I Feel really alone. I don’t know how to tell my family or what to do. I’m looking for some advice – please help.”

If your child seems to be struggling with the festive period, try not to worry. We have some tips to help you support them through what can be a very challenging time.

Family problems
Christmas can be a stressful time for even the closest of families. There might be arguments, or you might have to spend time with people you don’t like. Arguments can sometimes happen because people drink too much alcohol.

Not every family spends Christmas together. If parents are divorced or separated it’s likely children will spend time with one parent but not the other. It’s important that children feel able to say who they want to spend Christmas with, and they’re not just trying to keep everyone else happy.

No matter what difficulties are happening at home, it’s important children do things that will help them to cope. Sometimes simply making some time to listen to music they enjoy or messaging their friends can help. If things ever get too much and they don’t feel they can come to you, they can always speak to Childline.

Missing someone who’s passed away or can’t be there
When someone dies, Christmas can bring up lots of memories of them, even if it’s been a while since they died. Children might feel loss more keenly at this time because they wish they could share the festivities with them.

You could also miss someone because they can’t be there. They might be in hospital, be working or not be able to be there for some other reason. If your child is struggling because they’re missing someone:
• Encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. That could be with you or another trusted adult like an aunt or uncle. Or they could speak to a friend.
• Make sure they have time to remember the person. Talk about what they remember, perhaps write them a letter, or look at photos of them.
• Urge them not to put pressure on themselves to behave a certain way, it’s okay to show they’re upset.
• Try making new memories at Christmas, doing something you all enjoy doesn’t mean they’ll forget the person they lost, but it can help make Things easier.

Feeling lonely or isolated
There might be lots of reasons for children to feel lonely at Christmas. They might be away from family or feel like there’s nobody they can talk to. They might have had bad experiences at Christmas before.

When they’re feeling alone or down, it’s important they don’t keep it to themselves. Talking about how they feel with someone they trust will help and it means that they can get support.

Eating problems
Celebrating Christmas often involves a lot of food and drink. If your child has a problem with food or eating, this time of year might make them worried about:
• Eating too much (binge eating)
• Not wanting to eat (anorexia)
• Eating and then making themselves sick (bulimia)

If your child is worrying about the amount they eat – or you think they might have a problem with food – remind them they can talk to a Childline counsellor about it – call us free on 0800 1111.

It’s OK not to celebrate
Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Some people might not like the time of year and others might not because of their religion of beliefs.
It might seem like everyone celebrates Christmas when every advert on TV is about Christmas, and the shops are full of decorations and gifts. But even if your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, you can still enjoy this time of year. It’s a holiday and that means you have some time to relax, enjoy yourself and see friends and family.

Whatever worries your child might have this Christmas, let them know they can speak to you or to our trained volunteer counsellors at Childline, free and in confidence, 24 hours a day – including Christmas day.

Children can phone us on 0800 1111, log in to the Childline website for a 1-2-1 counsellor chat or send us an email via the website and we can help.

family finance early

Five things to tell your child about the cost of living

By family, Finance, numeracy skills, Relationships

by Brean Horne, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet

As the rising cost of living continues to stretch budgets with little signs of slowing down, it can be an extremely worrying time for many people. This is especially true for families and can create questions that are difficult for parents to answer. Parents should be setting time aside to engage in conversations with their children about the cost of living crisis in order to lessen their concerns. Below, Brean discusses how parents can tackle the topic of money when talking to children, and stay realistic about any financial sacrifices that may be needed.

Strike the balance
Honesty is always the best policy, and while ensuring your child is aware of the realities of the rising cost of living is important, it is also crucial to avoid unnecessary panic or worry, and strike the right balance between explaining the seriousness of the situation with not alarming them.

At the moment, while it is not necessary for a child to be too concerned about the intricate details of budgeting and saving, it’s a good idea to make your child aware of the increase in the cost of heating, petrol, groceries, and other essential items.

Be clear with children if the current climate means you have to cut back on some of their favourite brands at the supermarket, or if you need to take them to more budget-friendly clothing stores to pick out new items. Reassure – but don’t promise – them this should
only be temporary and help them to understand how important it is to appreciate all that they do still have, rather than what they don’t.

Be realistic
In the lead-up to the Christmas period, many children may start sharing ideas with their parents of the gifts they want to see sitting under their tree come 25th December. However, this year many may struggle to create a similar festive experience for their own families whilst dealing with ongoing financial pressures.

In order to still create a fun and memorable Christmas for your children, it’s wise to prepare them sooner rather than later that certain sacrifices need to be made if they want certain Christmas presents or experiences, such as swapping pricey weekend activities like cinema trips for a day exploring local walks or visiting a local free-entry museum. Not only will this hopefully help children to realise that parents don’t have access to unlimited wealth to treat them with, it should also emphasise the magic of Christmas and how lucky they are to have a family willing to cut back so they don’t go without.

Be wary of shock value
More often than not, children will consume a lot of information from their peers or from unsourced articles shared to social media platforms written to shock and generate headlines. Both of these are notorious for exaggerating or expanding on the facts of a story or subject, and should not be the way a child is gaining knowledge of the current crisis.

Depending on their age, sit your child down for a frank and honest conversation on the issues that are most concerning to them, and try your best to reduce any panic or worry that they have heard through others or online. Point them in the direction of child-friendly websites that can outline the most pressing issues in easy to digest language, and reassure them that you are always available to answer or tackle any questions or concerns they have.

Teach them about budgeting
Parents can use the cost of living crisis as an opportunity to educate children on the importance of budgeting and saving for a rainy day. Highlighting different issues surrounding inflation, energy bills, how interest rates affect things like mortgage repayments and credit card loans, and even how inflation works, will give them a better perspective on the crisis and is something that they are unlikely to be exposed to within school settings.

For older children, this is also an opportunity to help guide them to set up their own financial accounts, such as a children’s bank card or a prepaid card. This will help them learn how to budget, manage their finances, and understand the satisfaction associated with saving up to purchase something for themselves.

While some children are simply given pocket money or a weekly/monthly allowance, now is a great opportunity to give children age-appropriate chores in order to earn some money themselves.

Involve children in making cost-effective savings around the house
Budgeting doesn’t have to be boring, and there are a multitude of useful and fun ways you can involve children with budgeting tasks around the house.

Set children a task to plan budget-friendly meals with a certain amount of money or ingredients you have in the fridge and cupboards as a Master Chef style challenge, or get them involved in cooking/baking large batches to freeze for a later date – a great way to save money and reduce food waste.

In order to help them understand the energy crisis a little more, it’s also worth setting them the task of ensuring no electronic devices or switches are left on unnecessarily around the house – which can of course be incentivised with rewards.

Article supplied by NerdWallet


Separation and divorce: What should we tell the children?

By Finance, Legal, Mental health, Relationships

In this issue of the magazine, Jennie Apsey, Solicitor in the Family Department at Dean Wilson LLP, looks at the best way for parents to tell their children that they are separating and how to come to agreement in respect of Child Arrangements.

We have decided to separate but have not yet told the children. How do you advise we should do this?
Every situation and child is different so there is no one answer to this question. Of course, much will depend on the age and emotional maturity of the children concerned. Pre-school children need simple, concrete explanations and are unlikely to be able to articulate their feelings. You as their parents are their whole world and they will not have the ability to think about the future. They will need reassurance about where they will live, who will look after them and how often they will see the other parent. Six to 11 years olds will be more able to understand and think and talk about their feelings, however they do still tend to see things in black and white and will have a limited understanding of complex adult issues like separation and divorce. Secondary school age children will have a far greater capacity to understand these issues and are likely to ask more questions and challenge parental authority and decision making.

From my experience as a Family Solicitor I have assessed that damage to children of all ages may be limited by following some or all of the following:
1. Inform your children jointly of the decision to separate.
2. Talk to them in an environment in which they
feel comfortable, for example at home.
3. Be honest but avoid blaming each other. Avoid giving children too much information or information they do not need.
4. Emphasise that it is not the children’s fault and that both parents love them equally. They need to understand that the decision to separate is an adult decision which they didn’t cause and can’t influence.
5. Do not make children feel they have to choose between you. Tell them that their life will be different but do not give them choices – it is your job as their parents to make the decisions. Children will want to know how life will change from their point of view, not yours, so letting them know what will change and what will still be the same is important.
6. Make sure they realise that they are free to love both parents as before. Try to separate your feelings from the children’s feelings – do not confuse your child by belittling or criticising the other parent.
7. Expect your child to play one parent off against the other or even to take sides. This is very common. Do not hold what they say against them – allow them to express their feelings.
8. For contact arrangements, make them clear to the children and make them regular – children usually like routines as they feel more secure knowing where they will be, when and with whom.

We are having difficulty agreeing what is in the best interests of the children in terms of living and contact arrangements. How can we overcome this?
You may need the help of a third party to come to an agreement about Child Arrangements and a family consultant or mediator can assist with this and help you formulate a Parenting Plan to refer to moving forwards.

What is the difference between a family consultant and a mediator?
A family consultant provides therapeutic and emotional support and helps separating parents navigate a way forward in the best interests of their children. A family consultant does not focus on legal or financial matters, focussing instead on the emotional wellbeing of all the family members. It can sometimes be helpful to speak with a family consultant to prepare you for the process of mediation, or even for them to work alongside the mediator. Family consultants aim to provide an impartial ‘third-eye’ perspective to assist parents in prioritising their children’s needs and wellbeing.

A mediator is trained to listen to both parents, to assist them in their discussions and to work towards a solution that is in the best interests of the children. The mediator will ensure that both parents have the opportunity to speak and put their views forward within a neutral, safe environment. Mediators do not take sides and do not advise. Mediators are not therapists, and their role does not extend to providing therapeutic or emotional support.

Do I need a Solicitor?
A Solicitor will be able to advise you in relation to your rights and obligations which you may find helpful prior to embarking on mediation with your partner. However, Solicitor and Court intervention should be considered as a last resort. Some cases require Solicitors to negotiate on the parents’ behalf and/or the benefit of a Court Order to regulate Child Arrangements. However, in the first instance it is far better to try hard to sort difficulties direct with your ex-partner. The children will benefit most if you are able to maintain communication and establish a good co-parenting arrangement going forwards.

Dean Wilson LLP’s reputation has been built upon our ability to deliver and exceed our clients’ expectations. For over 100 years our success has been founded upon our client focused approach, backed by the knowledge and expertise of our lawyers.

As an ABC reader you can call the Family Department on 01273 249200 to arrange a no obligation telephone discussion and, if required, a fixed-fee meeting.