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Help please! First time using After School Care. A few questions re the ridiculously high session fees and retainer fees.

(41 Posts)
UncertainMum Thu 17-Jan-13 19:55:04

Okay, so there are only two local ASCs near my daughter's school. And i have to start her in one of them in a few weeks.

Went to visit them this week.

They were roughly the same in price, but i didn't like the first one. So have decided to go with the second.

I got the contract sent out today in the post and i've just discovered they charge a retainer fee! I'm really surprised by this for ASCs actually.

They don't charge by hour. They charge by session. 3pm-6pm = £11.50, regardless of whether you pick them up at 4pm or 6pm.

£5 additional charge for up to 20 minutes late.
£7 additional charge for up to 30 minutes late.

A full day (in service day/school holiday) costs £23.

I called today to say i only require a term time place, what will the retainer charge be?

It's 50% normal rate. So £5.75. Which, over the course of a 6 week summer holiday, really adds up.

They said it was so that my child still has the option to attend the club during holidays. E.g. trips/outings etc.

This I don't get. What if i wanted to send my child one day during the holiday at her usual time 3pm-6pm, but they were away on an outing? It wouldn't be possible. Yet i'd still be expected to pay the retainer fee, or else send her for the full day, so she could go out with them, which is yet more money.

Can anyone advise whether or not this is normal re costs. Seems quite extravagant.

Also - I'm really stuck with what to do in the mornings. Come October, i'm going to be full time, so dd will be out the house 8-6 every weekday. Can only find one breakfast club, but it's part of the other ASC i went to visit which i didn't like very much. But then, it would only be for an hour a day.

Would it be too much for my dd to go to one club for breakfast, then a different one after school?

Really panicking how much this is going to cost me - especially over the summer. Tax credits won't help with costs over holidays if my dd doesn't attend the clubs during that time, will they?

Sorry for the rambling questions.

Seriously panicking!

GuffalosMum Thu 17-Jan-13 20:01:02

What age is your child? If over 8 and/or low maintenance, could you use an au pair instead? Then she would be at home instead of having a long day split over 3 venues.

UncertainMum Thu 17-Jan-13 20:07:58

Thanks, Guffalo. No room for an au pair though (and don't think i'd like someone else living with us tbh).

The breakfast thing come October might not be a big dilemma though. There's a chance my mum can have her.

It's just the cost i'm reeling at for ASC. I've heard people say their's is around £5, so was really surprised by all of these fees.

NickNacks Thu 17-Jan-13 20:08:47

What about a childminder?

UncertainMum Thu 17-Jan-13 20:12:04

Thanks, Nick.

I've checked costs for CMs before and after school, and they're roughly the same as ASCs.

My preference is the ASC because i know they'll always be open (whereas a CM could get sick/take holidays etc), and several of my dd's friends go to this club she'll be starting - which is great.

I may have to consider a CM though if my mum can't manage the morning drop offs to school in October.

joey99 Thu 17-Jan-13 20:17:20

I never paid a holiday retainer at ASC but when i handed in notice to leave at the end of summer term i had to pay all of Septembers fee as notice as the school holidays didnt count as the 4 weeks notice so they got me that way instead!

Glittertwins Thu 17-Jan-13 20:21:48

Our ASC is £9.50 per child from 3:15-6pm. This includes them being picked up and driven fro school to ASC.
If we want to use them during the school hols, it will be £60 per day for the pair of them, 8am-6pm which will include 3 meals and any off site outing. No retainers at all though.

Mandy21 Thu 17-Jan-13 20:22:41

I think the charges for the after-school club sound reasonable, I pay £11 per session from 3pm - 5.30pm. The late fees are steep, they strike me as more in line with nursery charges (I have to pay £11 for every 15 mins I'm late) but I suppose its there as an incentive to make sure all the children are collected on time and the ASC doesn't have to stay open with a member of staff there just to accommodate 1 parent who is running late.

I think the retainer is exceptional though - I've never heard of an ASC charging a retainer for the holidays. IMO, the families that use the holiday club are not necessarily the same families that use the ASC, and I agree at close to £30 a week, you don't want to be paying that if you're not going to use it. I would try to speak to the manager and explain that you're never going to use the holiday club and whether there is any room for negotiation.

I think its quite a big ask to do breakfast club at one place, then school, then ASC in annother place. Depends whether you think your DD will adapt to that. If your mum could drop her at school, that would be better, or maybe perhaps one of her friends might have her for breakfast? Good luck!

duchesse Thu 17-Jan-13 20:47:46

UM, those charges seem very steep to me but my only comparison is France where breakfast club and ASC together cost €3,50/day or €40/month, 7:45am to 6:45 pm including breakfast and afternoon snack. I actually think these frankly ridiculous charges is one of the major problems with work/life balance in the UK.

Remembering my niece and nephew's ASC, where about 30-50 children attend, a bit of basic maths would suggest that at a staffing ratio of 1:10/15 (which is what it seemed to be), a cost price per child for staffing would be only marginally above £1/hour. Of course your place should not be charging a retainer for holidays. They're just taking the piss. They are easily charging enough to offset a total lack of business during holidays, although of course they will be getting a fair number of children during holidays as well.

UncertainMum Thu 17-Jan-13 21:16:29

Here's a scenario i'm playing out in my head.

It's Easter. I've took the holidays off work. DD is bored stiff so i decide to send her to the after school club for her usual three hours anyway. I go down and they're not in, yet i've been charged the retainer fee. What do i do? Ask for money back? Or is it my own fault for not arranging it the day before?

Think i'm just going to have to suck it up and pay tbh sad

It'll be a full time uni course i'm starting late Sept/early Oct, which is why i'll only need term time care.

Ahhhh it's so much money!

Phoned my lovely, lovely mum for a bit of a chat panic attack and she said that she would take dd before AND after school for me when i start uni.

However, i'm really reluctant to accept this much help from her for the folowing reasons.

1) She used to watch dd full time weekdays 7am-5pm when dd was younger and i was working full time. She would always moan about it, and cause me to stress at work, feeling guilty and conseqently rush work because i was trying to get out early.

2) She and my dad go on holiday about 3-4 times a year during term time, meaning i would have to find short snippets of child care anyway.

3) She's not showing great enthusiasm about watching her, but sort of saying it as in 'if you need a last resort - choose me!'

I know that dd would much much prefer to go to her gran's than a childcare setting every day, but i just don't want to be so reliant on my mum again.

But i think these childcare costs are just taking the P.

So, so confused.

IwishIwasmoreorganised Thu 17-Jan-13 21:24:46

University semesters aren't the same as school holidays so you may well need holiday care for your dd too, the students that come for placements with us only have 4 weeks summer holiday and obviously no half terms.

Your DM seems to be saying what she thinks you might want her to say, but going on past experiences that doesn't sound like a great plan.

Have a close look at university semester dates and school term dates - you might be surprised at how much school holiday time you will need the out of school club for.

UncertainMum Thu 17-Jan-13 21:35:00

Ah, that's a great point, IwishIwas...

I know that my placements won't start until second year. But i also know i don't get a week off in October (but the schools do) and i will need a lot of study time, so could use the club during holidays for this occasionally.

I'm new to professional childcare settings, and really didn't prepare myself for the costs.

My mum is definitely the easiest option (and she refuses to take any money either, so is also the cheapest), but i know i couldn't tolerate that level of guilt/stress again.

If she can manage the school run in the mornings - that would be great.

For now, I'll put my dd into the ASC and just hide my groans at the cost. I'll worry about her full time placement once i get my uni timetable.

LeeCoakley Thu 17-Jan-13 21:44:19

You have paid the retainer to keep your place. By only using a term-time place you have stopped someone else paying for a full-time place which would be more lucrative for the AFC. I think this is pretty standard unless council-run. Certainly where I live.

duchesse Thu 17-Jan-13 22:20:15

I wonder what would happen if everyone withdrew their child formally before every holiday and then re-registered them at the beginning of term. And Lee, no-one is going to be using a full-time after school place. It does what it says on the tin, an after school scheme.

Tanith Fri 18-Jan-13 07:01:00

I would imagine that, if you aren't prepared to pay the retainer and try the scam that duchesse suggests, you risk losing the place.

I would also think that you have to notify them in advance if you plan to use days in the holidays, too. That's only fair. They can't have the other kids confined to barracks on the offchance that you might be dropping yours off.

It sounds like this ASC is not subsidised like many others are. It's a business and it has to charge realistic fees to cover its costs.

Glittertwins Fri 18-Jan-13 07:04:43

Our ASC requests a one off registration fee. Pulling your DD out as suggested Duchesse suggests could incur more expense?

Glittertwins Fri 18-Jan-13 07:05:25

Ie it wouldn't end up being a one off charge, you could be paying it at each term.

minderjinx Fri 18-Jan-13 08:09:03

I can understand the club charging a retainer if they are open over the holidays and could take a child who would come every day if they weren't keeping a place for yours. Do you perhaps know anyone who would use a place in the holidays only? If so, maybe the club would let you share one place between two children?

BranchingOut Fri 18-Jan-13 08:19:51

I imagine they charge a retainer because they are paying rent on their premises during the holiday periods, but cannot guarantee that they will cover those costs with holiday-only children.

I am afraid this is the nature of of privatised childcare, and why there are areas with very little ASC provision whatsoever.

Mandy21 Fri 18-Jan-13 13:57:24

OP - I really disagree with some of the posts here - an after school club is just that. If they also offer a holiday club, then thats a separate entity and just because you use the ASC in term time, it doesn't mean you should be paying for a holiday club. You don't need to "retain" your place - you're not having any time off, your DD will use the after school club every school day.

If you want to dip and out of the holiday club then that is different.

I would telephone the manager and explain that its an after school club and on what basis do you have to retain a term time place. Its not like they can offer your after school place to anyone else because there is no after school in the holidays!! It really doesn't make sense and the manager needs to explain why you have to pay that - just that its in their Ts and Cs isn't really good enough.

kilmuir Fri 18-Jan-13 14:01:58

Wow our afterschool club is cheap compared to those prices,
No retainer fee, we can use as and when needed. Its 3 pounds from 3.15 until 4.30 and only 5.50 from 3.15 until 6.

MirandaWest Fri 18-Jan-13 14:02:45

I feel very lucky with our ASC - it's right next to school, you can make casual bookings (although ASC is £1 more if you don't have a regular place) and there's no difference with breakfast club price. The holiday part is separate so no need for a retainer. The only thing that would be good would be an hourly rate for ASC but that would really be the icing on the cake rather than something very important.

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 18-Jan-13 14:07:19

The ASC we use is £12 per child from 1530 to 1800 (including a snack such as beans on toast) with a late charge of £5 per 15 mins. Holidays are about £22 per day from 0800 to 1800, but not including food. So the standard costs seem about the same - but absolutely no retainer.

Given that the are upfront about their T&C, I don't see how complaining is going to make a difference. Eitherr you suck it up as part of the cost of using this facility, or use somewhere else

cansu Fri 18-Jan-13 15:33:33

I think the retainer is steep. I pay 7.50 for after school club 3.15 to 5.30. There is no retainer and they are pretty flexible and will take dd if I am stuck and they have space on the odd day that my work pattern is different. Wouldn't a childminder be a better option?

UncertainMum Fri 18-Jan-13 15:46:27

Thanks everyone.

Arranged for them to call me again later to discuss this retainer fee again before i hand in my contract.

Cansu - don't childminders have retainer fees too?

HappyMummyOfOne Fri 18-Jan-13 15:54:33

Ours runs on the school premises, breakfast club is £3 and after school care is £7.50 until 5.30 and £8 until 6pm. Breakfast is given and a sandwich, fruit and fresh juice at ASC.

Its only open term time though so no holiday cover and you book in advance the week before. If you dont used a booked session its still charged for as standard.

Its fab, i know DS is well looked after on the days i dont finish at 3 and doesnt have to be collected by anybody else or taken to a different place.

Redbindy Fri 18-Jan-13 15:58:30

You could of course look after your own daughter.

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 18-Jan-13 16:17:54

Gosh, Redbindy, why didn't we think of that? Oh yes, because the OP has explained that she will be in full time work in October, hence needing an after school club.

IwishIwasmoreorganised Fri 18-Jan-13 16:19:10

That's a helpful comment Redbindy hmm

Op has explained how she'll be staring a full time university course - do you know many of those that work around school hours and term dates?!

UncertainMum Fri 18-Jan-13 16:58:49

Thanks, Redbindy, but as an LP, my dd relies on me to bring home some money. Unless you think she could survive on air?

Anyway, thanks again for the constructive advice, everybody. Just off the phone with the ASC.

They've confirmed that I'll have to pay £5.75 retainer fee.

I asked, does that mean the after school slot is still available those days during holidays. i.e. 3pm-6pm? They said no, they're normally out for the day at 9am. So if i wanted to send her that day, i'd have to pay the full session fee of £23. I was a bit put out by this. Why am i being charged a retainer fee for a service that isn't technically available during holidays?

The thing that makes up for this is that they said my retainer fees accumulate so that i get one full day free (or something like that). Not sure it all makes sense though.

Dd loves it and knows a few other children that attend.

And tbh, i might actually need to use their holiday club in 2014 anyway when i start my uni placements, so keeping her spot open will be handy i suppose...

Fingers crossed though that my mum can help out with drop offs in the mornings.

Another reason i'm worrying about the breakfast club (which is part of the different ASC) is that my child's school is the first one they drop off to in the mornings. And i don't like the idea of my 5yo being left in the yard for 15 minutes alone each morning waiting on the bell to go. The school is on a main road, and she's not very safety aware.

grendel Fri 18-Jan-13 17:36:45

The session fees and late collection fees seem reasonable, depending on which part of the country you are in. Late collection fees are so steep not only to discourage you from being late but also to pay for the extra time of the TWO members of staff who have to stay late to look after your child.

I have never come across an after school club that charges a retainer over the holidays though. Is the club over-subscribed? If not you could just cancel your booking at the end of the summer term and restart it in September and just take a chance that there will still be a place available. Clearly this tactic won't work if they are often fully booked.

The deal whereby the accumulated retainer days add up to a free day might balance things out though. You need to get more info on this.

NickNacks Fri 18-Jan-13 18:18:08

Again, I don't know why you don't use a childminder on a term time only basis if this ASC retainer fee is causing issue??

BranchingOut Fri 18-Jan-13 18:21:57

Sending lucky vibes that your mum can do mornings.

I suspect that you might end up using it a little in the holidays too, as you may well have assignments to do over some university holiday periods.

Kiriwawa Fri 18-Jan-13 18:27:33

sorry the breakfast club drop a 5YO off outside school before it opens? Are you sure??

UncertainMum Fri 18-Jan-13 18:35:30

Kiri - the school gates are open from 08.45 but the yard is unsupervised by any staff until minutes before 9am when the janitor comes out. So my dd would be left in the yard to wait 15 minutes by herself before the bell goes as they're not allowed in the building before 9am. The breakfast club is not associated with the school. it's another private business a ten minute walk from it. i wouldn't trust my daughter to stay in the yard unsupervised until 9am, while the main gate is open and parents/other children are coming and going.

Nick - i'd rather use an after school club because they are less likely to close due to staff sickness etc. A CM is just one person. If s/he gets ill, i'd have to take a day off too. I would feel much better with larger staff numbers.
However, if my mum is unable to do mornings, i may have to consider a CM. But i've been looking last week and although several do before and after school, I can't see any do this term time. So i assume they'd still charge a retainer?

Grendel - the manager told me when i visited that they are insured for upto 30 kids, but usually only have 25 signed up currently, so not over subscribed.

I'm so jealous hearing how much cheaper everyone else's is!

Viviennemary Fri 18-Jan-13 18:38:49

I think the fees seem OK. Not cheap but acceptable. But I don't see why you should pay a retainer in the holidays since it's an after school club and children don't go to school in the holidays. They seem to want it both ways. I think if they charge a retainer then the facility for the child to go from 3.00-6.00 should be available.

NickNacks Fri 18-Jan-13 18:50:01

No I only charge a retainer if the space needs to be held. Otherwise TTO is perfectly normal to contract for a school aged child.

I've also not taken a single day off sick in 4 yrs, self employed people are less likely to as they don't get paid.

UncertainMum Fri 18-Jan-13 18:58:07

Vivienne - i agree. If i'm still having to pay over holidays/in service to retain the 3-6 place - that 3-6 place should still be available imo. However, all they're offering are full days over holidays/inservice. So i either pay the £23 and send her, or i pay the £5.75 and don't send her. They tried to explain this away by saying something about so many accumulated retainer fees will get me one full free day...

Nick - Thanks, i really think i am coming round to the idea of CMs. I just took it that if they didn't state before/after school was for term time only, then i'd have to pay something during holidays. Surely then that means they can only take on a mindee during holiday times in her place? It doesn't seem financially sound to me (from the CMs POV)

I also like that several CMs are open to 7pm, which is much better than the 6pm time for ASCs.

It's just that i've read so many threads on here and on other parenting sites about parents having bother with CMs who call sick/their children are sick the morning they're due to have their mindees, and parents having to take a day off.

But i think it may just be something i'll have to risk.

Dozer Fri 18-Jan-13 19:37:20

Some sneaky fact-finding could be helpful here. Is the ASC full, in term-time and holidays? If not, you might have it as a fall-back option for holidays and if you had a CM and they were unavailable.

CMs can be v reliable (mine is) and may well be more flexible and cheaper than the ASC. You have your mum as fall-back, which is good.

For the mornings, another option (illegal, but lots of people do it!) would be cash-in-hand to a friend who is a SAHM.

Our after school club is £6.25 per child.
mon-thurs it runs 3.15 till 5.30
fri it runs 3.15 till 5.15

we don't pay a retainer fee or during the holidays. they only accept children from our school.

NickNacks Fri 18-Jan-13 20:08:18

Yes that's right, I have quite a few 'holiday only' mindees. Or other CMs prefer to work TTO and like to spend the hols with their own DC.

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