As a single mum on Universal Credit, free nursery stops me dropping out of college

In us How I Manage My Childcare Series we aim to find out how people across the UK handle the logistics and costs of children.

This week we talk to Chloe Fair, a 23 year old student who lives in London with her daughter Ava.


One three-year-old girl


Single mother, part-time student at the Open University


Ava is in full-time childcare 09: 00-15: 00 five days a week

I live with my daughter Ava in North London, and I have been studying for a part-time criminology and psychology degree at the Open University for two years, hoping to use my degree for a support role in the police force. Ava started kindergarten when she was two and a half and did 15 free hours on a funded scheme for low-income families who are on some form of support. I was on Universal Credit at the time.

Those fifteen hours a week of childcare did not leave me enough time to study properly, and I struggled a lot to get it all done. Since Ava is my first child, I did not think much about how I would manage the childcare and assumed that all children get 30 hours of free childcare when they turn three. I was shocked to find out this was not the case at all.

I looked at how much it would be to send her to the nursery for more hours, and I do not remember the exact amount, but it was more than a thousand pounds a month. I remember thinking I would not be able to pay it off in a million years. Some low-income households qualify for 30 hours of free childcare, but I do not because I am a student.

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I talked to the nursery school and said I was worried about the future because I did not think I would be able to continue studying anymore, with Ava in the nursery school only fifteen hours a week.

They said to fill out a form for a special scheme run by the Camden Council, which meant Ava could possibly have an extra free 15 hours of childcare per week, and I was accepted. So she’s there now for 30 hours a week, 9am to 3pm, and I can study and write my essays. Sometimes my studies also take me a little longer because I am being assessed for ADHD.

Without this help I think I would still have tried to study further but I do not think I would have had enough time to get good marks and I would probably have had to drop out.

I was surprised to find out that Camden is one of only a few places that offers extra hours to people like me. I feel sorry for many other parents who work very hard and get so much less help with their child care, it just does not make sense to me.

Being able to study means I have a chance to get a job I want, and nursery was good for Ava too. Being with other children built her confidence and she learned so much. I think that she went to kindergarten every day means that she will do better when she goes to school in September.

Her toddler teachers are going to take her to visit it closer to the time, so it will be a natural transition. We are so happy to get this help, there is just no way I could have done any of this without it, and the future would look different.

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