Cancer and its treatment often disrupt family life and normal routines. As a result, your childcare needs may change and you may need more support to look after your children.

About cancer treatment and childcare

You may need to make frequent visits to the hospital for tests and treatments, or to see your specialist. You may find it difficult to do all the things you used to do. As a result, you may find it hard to care for your children how you would like to.

This can be upsetting and difficult to accept. But this situation is usually temporary. After you finish your treatment, you will gradually get stronger and be able to do more.

Try not to feel guilty. It can be difficult to ask for help, but with the right support, some of the stress can be reduced. Then the time you spend with your children is likely to be more enjoyable and relaxed.

Help looking after children

It is important to ask for help when you need it. Social workers can be a useful contact and source of support. They can advise you about the childcare that is available in your local area.

There are several sources of help that may be available to help you care for your children. These suggestions may give you some useful ideas.

Family and friends

For some people, support from family and friends is enough to help them care for their children. A family member may be able to do some of the things you usually do. Children often adapt to this and can learn that it is part of what it means to be a family.

Family and friends can do practical things like housework, cooking or shopping. This can give you more time to spend with your children.

Family and friends can often help with day-to-day activities, such as picking up your children from school and nursery or taking care of them when you have hospital appointments.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, no matter how small the amount of help is. People are usually happy to help and are just waiting to be asked.

Social Services

Social services provide a variety of care options and support for children, their families and carers. They will assess your needs. Sometimes, it is possible for them to provide a package of care.

A care package is a combination of services put together to meet a person’s assessed needs. Social services work to ensure parents, families or carers have access to the support they need, when they need it.

You can contact your local council’s Family Information Service to get a list of the childcare services available in your area. This will include local childminders, day care nurseries and out-of-school care. In some areas, this is called Childcare Information Service.

Charities

Some charities can provide free support and practical help with looking after children.

  • Home-Start

    Home-Start provides free support and practical help to families in various circumstances. The volunteers are all trained and parents themselves. They visit families in their own homes for a few hours a week. They can help look after children, or just be someone to talk to.

  • Carer’s Trust

    Carer’s Trust has Care Centres across the UK. Many have trained carers who can provide practical support in the home so the carer can take a break. They also help families when a parent or carer has cancer by looking after the children.

Flexible working

If you or your partner are employed, it may be possible to ask your employer about whether you could adopt flexible working during your treatment. This may give you more flexibility with childcare.

Gov.uk has information about various types of flexible working such as flexitime, home working, compressed hours and job share in England, Scotland and Wales. NIDirect has information about flexible working in Northern Ireland.

Financial help with childcare costs

There are different kinds of help available towards childcare costs:

Benefits

You may get help with the cost of government-approved childcare through Working Tax Credit. How much you get depends on how much you earn. The maximum you can get is £122.50 a week for one child, or £210 a week for two or more children. You can find out more on the gov.uk website.

If you get Housing Benefit, some of your childcare costs can be taken into account.

If you get Universal Credit you may also be able to get help with childcare costs. You usually need to have a job or a job offer. If you live with a partner, they will need to have a job or job offer, too.

You might be able to get some help from the government towards childcare costs. This might include some free childcare, or some money to help pay for childcare. You can find out about the different types of support available at childcarechoices.gov.uk You might also be able to get help with childcare costs from a charity or your local council.

Free school meals (England only)

These are available to anyone who already claims certain benefits such as Income Support. Contact your local authority for details of how to apply.

Grants for school clothing

These are given to families on a low income in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland, they are given if the parent or carer is claiming certain benefits. If you are in Northern Ireland, contact your local education and library board for details of how to apply. In the rest of the UK, contact your local authority.

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