Childcare in France
If you’re planning a move to France with your family, the good news is that there are plenty of childcare options on offer. Kate McNally explains what benefits you are entitled to and the choices available
Your guide to the options available and how to access them
France is well set up when it comes to childcare and there are numerous (and generous) financial benefits available to help parents pay for it. French society is founded on socialist ideals, at the heart of which lies the family – and the welfare system is geared up to encouraging couples to have children, rather than fearing loss of earnings or revenue-draining childcare.
The first port of call when considering childcare options is the CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales, caf.fr) for your area. This is where you can find out exactly what benefits you’re entitled to and information about local childminders and crèches.
Call into your local mairie as well, as they will no doubt have contact details for your immediate area. Another useful address is the Relais Assistantes Maternelles (RAM) which is a sort of federation of childminders.
WHAT WILL YOU PAY?
You pay upfront for the childcare, usually on a monthly basis, then declare your payments to the CAF who will calculate the amount that will be reimbursed.
The benefit related to childcare is called the complément de libre choix du mode de garde (CMG) and is available for children under six years. Everyone is required to pay a minimum of 15% of their child’s care costs in France but thereafter the amount reimbursed by the state is calculated according to household income and the age of the child or children. The payment declarations can also be used if applying for any annual income tax rebates. (To apply for this benefit, contact the CAF or the Mutualité Sociale Agricole, MSA.)
If you opt for an independent childminder, there are also employer charges sociales (similar to employer NI contributions) to pay, however, in most cases, at least 50% of these charges are paid by the CAF.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?
Group childcare ( Accueil collectif) As in the UK, France has various types of ‘ accueil collectif’ offering group childcare for babies and infants up to three years old (when they go to nursery school, called école maternelle), as well as for children up to six years old outside regular nursery school hours. Within this form of group provision, you have: • crèches collectives (nurseries or crèches) • crèches d’entreprises (workplace nurseries) • haltes-garderies (usually providing before- and after-school care only) • jardins d’enfants (kindergartens) • micro crèches (mini nurseries allowed a maximum intake of 10 infants)
These facilities may be run by a local community authority, an association, a private company or a business. Staff members must have a minimum basic childcare qualification and regulations state that each employee is permitted to care for up to eight infants or up to five if they are not yet walking. In addition, the establishment is generally headed by a director specialised in child health and/or education.
Most of these crèches and nurseries offer regular places from a half-day up to five days a week, depending on availability. Many are also willing to accept children for a few hours a day, including providing an ‘out-of-school-hours care’ service. In general, they close only on public holidays and for around three weeks in August.
Parent-run crèches ( Accueil parental)
Accueils parentaux are groups set up and managed by a parents’ association. They are limited to 20 infants, occasionally 25