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Returning to STEM
Returning to STEM

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Caring for elderly or other dependants

In England and Wales, there are around six million people providing unpaid care for an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend (White, 2013) and in Scotland a further half million. In other words, one in eight adults looks after a relative or friend who cannot manage without help because of sickness, age or disability. Being a carer can be an isolating experience. If you’re in this position you can get advice and support from The Carers UK website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , which has lively forums featuring contributions from people experiencing similar hurdles.

Many of the problems and solutions that arise as a result of childcare are similar to those of caring for other dependents.

Activity 5 Planning your caring arrangements

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Now make notes on which care arrangements (for children or other dependents) you will need to make when you return to work or training. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different options available?

Some of the questions you might need to consider include:

  • Who else might share the responsibility for looking after your children? (Partner, parents or other family members)
  • Would you be looking for informal or reciprocal arrangements with friends, or seeking paid childcare?
  • Where would you prefer your children to be looked after? Your home, another home or a nursery?
  • How many hours per day and how many days per week would you want childcare for?
  • What can you afford to pay in terms of childcare costs?
  • If you have school age children, is there an after school play scheme they can attend? What will you do in the school holidays?


There are many different arrangements to caring for dependents. Below, Amanda describes how she felt about her childcare arrangements.

One of the most important things, I think, that allowed me to return to work has been having confidence in my childcare arrangements. With my older daughter, certainly for the first year she was with a member of my family, but at various points through the various ages of the children, I have had different childcare arrangements. My older daughter went to a day nursery which we did a lot of research choosing something that would be suitable that would work for us, that we knew would be reliable and we had confidence in. When I came back to work after my second daughter, I actually hired a nanny and again I spent an awful lot of time while I was still on leave working, you know, interviewing nannies, finding somebody I was happy with, having her at home with me for quite a long period of time so that by the time I came back to work I was totally happy with the arrangement. I was very, very lucky that I found the right person and that that arrangement lasted for several years which obviously is good for me and was good for the children. So personally, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is for you to be happy with your childcare arrangements and that is just about planning and work and preparation and really going into every detail. I mean, I went through, you know, so many interviews, but this was the most important job that I was ever going to hire for, so I spent a lot of time making sure I had got the right arrangements and that leaves me free then so that I don’t have to worry about childcare when I am at work.

It is really, really important that when you are at work you are not worried about your childcare arrangements and again, for that flexibility it is important that you have got an arrangement that really works for you. I do have that flexibility because I have got a childminder, but I try not to use that because I feel that it is a slippery slope. For example, I have certain pick up times on certain days and I try to stick to them religiously because I just feel – it would be very easy for me to pay the money and make them all half an hour later or an hour later and that might make things much more convenient for me at work – but nonetheless, that is eating into the children’s time at home, you know, I feel that the children need to be at home and need to be as my older daughter, doing her homework and need to be bathed and in bed and so I try not to eat into that time, I try not to be late. You know, like I say I would much rather pack up and take something home with me and do it later in the evening, rather than eat into that time with the children.

In addition to the day-to-day care of dependents, it’s also necessary to think through what you will do when an unforeseen event occurs.

Activity 6 Contingency planning

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Make some notes on the following:

  • What plans can you put in place for unforeseen events, for example, children being unwell at the start of a day? What will you do if you receive a phone call from the school/carer during the day?


It’s important to have a back-up plan for the days when a problem arises out of the blue. If you have a particularly important work activity which you can’t drop, then on those days you need to know that somebody else can be available to help if your regular care arrangements aren’t available.