Most parents-to-be already begin making childcare plans in the first few months of the pregnancy. Although there is no shortage of choice, places are limited, so it’s important to plan well in advance. Childcare facilities, a childminder, a babysitter or an au pair: what’s the best option? If your primary concern is your budget, your schedule or the logistics of childcare, myLIFE can at least shed some light on the various options that are out there.
They come under two main forms: home-based care and formal childcare facilities. Let’s start with the latter, as this is no doubt the most popular option that parents go for once maternity or parental leave is over.
Formal childcare facilities have the following features:
- They are approved by the Ministry of Education, Children and Youth based on integrity, staff qualifications and infrastructure.
- They accept children of all nationalities. However, some facilities only accept children who live in the same commune or attend school there.
- Children are enrolled directly through the facility’s administrative department. Those with disabilities or from single-parent or low-income families may be given priority when enrolling.
- Childcare and meals are provided for a fee but the costs can be reduced by using childcare vouchers.
- Childcare facilities may be either private or state-approved, except for after-school care centres and parental assistance schemes, which have a special status. This distinction is important, because private facilities do not accept childcare vouchers.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s have a look at some of the different types of facilities.
- Crèches offer educational care for children up to the age of 4, i.e. before they start school. They have set hours and do not allow children to attend when they are unwell. They may be run privately or by the local government, or may operate with state approval. Some of them are bilingual or even multilingual. But all this means they often come with a hefty pricetag. According to the 2014 study “Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe” published by the European Commission, a full-time place in a crèche in Luxembourg can cost as much as EUR1,280 a month (and that was several years ago!).
- Early education centres are free to attend for children aged 3–4 and are different from crèches in that they follow a structured curriculum. They correspond to the first cycle of the Luxembourg school system, but unlike the compulsory two years of preschool education, they are optional. The timetable can sometimes be difficult to fit around working hours, so some facilities offer solutions that are a halfway house between early education centres and crèches. Find out if this option could work for you!
- Day care centres serve the same purpose as crèches, but are aimed at a different age bracket. They offer care outside of school hours for children aged 4–12 attending early education centres, preschool or primary school.
- Nurseries take children between the ages of 2 months and 8 years, up to a maximum of 16 hours a week per child. Like crèches, they may be run privately or by the local government, or may operate with state approval.
- After-school care centres take children up to the age of 18. These facilities operate outside of school hours and are run by the communes. They are reserved for children who live or attend school in the same commune as the centre. Contact your commune’s administrative office to see if there are places available and to find out more about their rules and services.
Parental assistance schemes have more flexible hours, and can also include things like meals, special educational activities and caring for children who are unwell.
- Parental assistance schemes, unlike the other types of facility, provide childcare both day and night. Parental assistance schemes have more flexible hours, and can also include things like meals, special educational activities and caring for children who are unwell. To find out more, visit dageselteren.lu
Home-based care offers different benefits to childcare facilities, for both parents and children. Children are physically and emotionally comforted, as they feel safer and more at ease in a familiar environment. It is also more reassuring for parents, but you obviously need to find someone you trust enough to give them access to your home. Home-based care is also generally more flexible than a childcare facility, as it can be fit around your schedule. As for the cost, you can adapt the hours to suit your needs and your budget. And don’t forget that if you hire someone to work in your home, you can deduct some of the expenses as extraordinary costs on your tax return.
Home-based care can take various forms:
- You can hire someone to look after your children at home. It is important to draw up a detailed contract specifying the nature of the work, working hours, remuneration, holiday entitlement, etc. If you hire someone to work in your home, you will need to fill in a déclaration d’occupation dans un ménage privé form from the Centre Commun de la Sécurité Sociale (CCSS), which provides the employee with social security cover and allows them to pay into their pension. Employees who work more than 16 hours a week are eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Babysitting is also a form of home-based care. It involves paying someone to look after your children if you are not at home. Although there is no minimum legal age to be a babysitter, they must be 15 or older to be paid for looking after children. If you aren’t one of the lucky ones who can ask a nephew or the neighbour’s kid, Action Familiale et Populaire can provide you with a list of babysitters who have had the appropriate training. You can also contact your commune’s administrative office, who can put you in touch with babysitters that are available in your area.
If your child is unwell, the Krank Kanner Doheem service will look after them at home if you are unable to.
- If your child is unwell, the Krank Kanner Doheem service will look after them at home if you are unable to. In order to use this service, you must fill in a registration form. How much you pay will depend on your household income. Single-parent families are given priority access to this service.
- You can also hire an au pair to look after your children. The Law of 18 February 2013 on the placement of au pairs governs the conditions under which a young person aged 18–30 from abroad can be temporarily placed within a Luxembourg family. Au pairs are generally foreign university students looking to immerse themselves in the local language and culture. They usually perform light household chores and help look after and educate children under 13. In return, you provide them with board and lodging. Although the main aim of an au pair programme is to foster cultural exchange, it also creates an environment of mutual support with clear logistical and financial benefits. Au pairs are well protected under the law and hosting one requires a lot of paperwork. The necessary forms and further details are available at Guichet.lu.
Childcare vouchers and government benefits
Childcare vouchers can be used towards educational and childcare services in state-approved facilities. These childcare vouchers are a subsidy from the Luxembourg government to help reduce the cost of childcare for parents. The amount granted is calculated on an individual basis depending on your household income, the number of children receiving child benefits and the number of childcare hours required outside of school. It is sent directly to the service provider in question.
To obtain these childcare vouchers, please contact your commune’s administrative office, which will issue you with a contract. You should give this to the staff at the childcare facility, who will deduct the amount of the subsidy from your bill. And don’t forget that you can get tax allowances on certain childcare costs by declaring them under extraordinary costs on your tax return.
Although it can sometimes be hard to get a place, it’s fair to say that there is no shortage of choice when it comes to childcare facilities and solutions in Luxembourg. You can visit the official portal of the Grand Duchy for more information and useful links on the subject.
It’s best to start making childcare plans straightaway, so that you’re guaranteed to find a solution that suits your needs. You might find that a combination of different childcare options works best for you; for example, taking them to nursery during the day and then hiring a babysitter to help after school and with homework. There is of course one last option, and that’s being a full-time parent – what many call the best job in the world! It may not be the most glamorous, but it’s still the least expensive and most efficient childcare solution.