Types of childcare

Last updated: 08/03/2021

What is informal and registered childcare?

The Care Inspectorate

The Care Inspectorate publish their reports on their website

Informal childcare

This is when a neighbour, friend or family member looks after your children. You can not get help, through tax credits or universal credit, to help with the cost of informal childcare even if you pay for it.

Registered childcare

Registered childcare providers are regulated by the Care Inspectorate. It carries out inspections every 12 to 48 months, although it can be more frequently, to ensure childcare providers meet specific standards.

There are many different types of registered, or formal, childcare. Normally you have to pay for it although you may get help from your local council or as part of tax credits or universal credit.


Childminders are professional childcarers, registered with the Care Inspectorate, who work from their own homes. They offer high quality care in a home-from-home environment and your child will benefit from low adult-to-child ratios and a variety
of important developmental experiences.

Some points to consider when choosing a childminder:

  • Make sure that your childminder is registered with the Care Inspectorate
  • Sign a contract with your childminder. This will ensure you are both aware of the terms of the service provided.
  • Request a copy of your childminder’s policies and procedures. Ask how your childminder deals with risk assessments, child protection, infection, discipline etc.
  • A good childminder will offer a settling in period. Take your child along before you sign the contract, so you can see if your child is comfortable there.

Advice and a draft childminding contract are available from the Scottish Childminding Association.


Helpline: 01786 449063

Private nurseries

Private nurseries look after children from birth to five years of age and may also offer after school care. They are registered with the Care Inspectorate. Some offer lower rates for a second child or for single parents. Some may offer part-time places for 2 – 4 year olds paid for by the Scottish Government.

School and council nurseries

School and council nurseries are registered with the Care Inspectorate. You pay for the service but they also provide early learning and childcare places paid for by the Scottish Government. School nurseries are usually only open in school term time. Some may offer extra wrap-around care for longer days and holidays.

Out of school care

Out of school care, also known as after school care, provides a safe environment with a range of activities for school age children before and after school and during holidays. It is registered with the Care Inspectorate. Out of school care can start
from 7.30am before the start of the school day and can provide breakfast. Services also operate from the end of the school day until 6 pm. Some have clubs during the school holidays from 8 am to 6 pm and will operate during in-service training days,
polling days and half-term holidays.

For more information contact the Scottish Out of School Care Network:

Workplace, college and university nurseries

Workplace nurseries are provided by some large employers often with rates linked to your salary. Some colleges and universities also have nurseries. If they are not registered with the Care Inspectorate you cannot get help from tax credits, universal
credit or the Lone Parent Childcare Grant to help pay costs.


A nanny provides childcare for one or more children in your home. Nannies can live in or out of the family home. Nannies who provide care for newly born babies during the night are known as night nannies.

Nannies are not required to register with the Care Inspectorate on an individual basis, though agencies which introduce nannies to families are required to register as Childcare Agencies.

Nannies will usually have a professional qualification (NNEB, SVQ etc) and are likely to be the most expensive childcare option. If the nanny belongs to a registered childcare agency you may be able to get help for the registered childcare from working tax credit or universal credit.