Help getting childcare

Caring for children often becomes more difficult when someone in the family has cancer. You may have been diagnosed with cancer yourself, or be caring for someone who has cancer. Either way, you may be finding it hard to care for your children how you would like to.

This can be upsetting, but do not feel guilty about asking for help. Family and friends are often more than happy to help by taking children to school or with everyday tasks such as shopping. This can give you more energy to do fun things with your children.

You could also speak to your employer about more flexible working hours. Many offer home-working or flexitime. Social services can provide practical support and there are also charities with experienced volunteers who can visit your home to help with childcare. There are options available if you are struggling to cope.

It is also a good idea to tell your child’s school or nursery so they can support your child too. Most children adapt surprisingly well to changes in family routine. They often learn that being part of a family means asking for and giving help when it is needed.

Help getting childcare

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

This information looks at different childcare options when a parent or carer has cancer. It also includes details about the support available to help you look after your children.

If you have any more questions, you can talk to your cancer nurse or social worker. You can also call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.

You might also find it helpful to read our information about talking to children when an adult has cancer.

Arranging childcare

Caring for children can get harder when someone in the family has cancer. You may have been diagnosed with cancer yourself, or be caring for someone who has cancer. You might need to make lots of visits to the hospital for appointments, tests and treatments. You may find it difficult to do all the things you used to do. This might include looking after your children in the way you would like to.

This can be upsetting and difficult to accept. But this situation is usually temporary. Try not to feel guilty. It is important to ask for help when you need it. This can be difficult, but with the right support, some of the stress can be reduced. This can help make sure the time you spend with your children is more enjoyable and relaxed.

Help looking after children

There are several sources of help that may be available to help you care for your children. Below are some suggestions.

Informal support

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. You could ask family or friends to do practical things like housework, cooking or shopping. This can give you more freedom to spend quality time with your children.

Family and friends can often help with day-to-day activities. They could pick up your children from school or nursery, or take care of them when you have hospital appointments. Do not be afraid to ask for help, no matter how small it is. People are usually happy to help and are just waiting for you to ask.

It is a good idea to let your child’s teachers know about the cancer. They can help support your child while they are at school or nursery. They may also be able to offer extended hours or a breakfast or after-school club. There may also be specialists you can talk to, such as a school nurse or child psychologist.

Social services

Social services provide a variety of care options and support for children, families and carers. A social worker can visit and do an assessment of your needs. They may be able to arrange services to support you. You can find out more information about this on the NHS website.

Social workers can also advise you about the childcare services available in your local area (see below).

Childcare services

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, your local council’s Family Information Service (also called Childcare Information Service in some areas) can provide a list of the childcare services available in your area. This will include local childminders, day care nurseries and out-of-school care. Find your local Family Information Service through the Family and Childcare Trust.

If you live in Northern Ireland, search for childcare services near you through Northern Ireland Family Support.

We have more information about different types of childcare.


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

Home-Start provides free support and practical help to families. Its trained volunteers are all parents. 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.

The Carers Trust has carers centres across the UK. Many of them have trained carers, who can look after children when a parent or carer has cancer.

Changing your working hours

If you or your partner are employed, you could ask your employer about changing your working hours during your treatment. This could mean working from home more, starting later or finishing earlier, or job sharing.

We have more information about changing your working hours. also has information about flexible working in England, Scotland and Wales. NIDirect has information about flexible working in Northern Ireland.

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