PM’s ‘back to office’ plan could see more children living in poverty

Parents must navigate childcare and jobs over summer holidays - with no government help

Parents have been left in an extremely tough situation over childcare after Boris Johnson announced his ‘back to office’ plan for workers last week.

Just as many children break up from school for the summer holidays, the government has scrapped its ‘stay at home’ message in favour of allowing businesses to decide the best working environment for their staff for themselves.

For all of lockdown until now, the government has advised people to work from home if they can, and only go into workplaces if their jobs cannot be done remotely.

But from August 1, the Prime Minister has announced that employers, in consultation with their workers, will be able to decide how their staff should work safely, whether that be staying at home or returning to the office.

This puts many parents in a near impossible position, especially since Mr Johnson has not announced any plans for childcare support or structured activities for families.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pointed out this would penalise many families.

He said on Friday when the measure was announced: “Despite ordering millions of parents back to the office, the Prime Minister has refused to provide any extra help for families, penalising parents by putting them in an impossible position.”

The announcement will present particular problems for single-parent families.

Victoria Benson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, the charity that supports single parent families, said the government must seriously consider these specific needs.

She said: “Single parents have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the lifting of lockdown measures, life hasn’t got any easier for them.

“Many have seen their incomes drop and their household costs rise due to having children at home. With shops, restaurants and businesses  opening their doors many single parents will be called back to work but without access to childcare they simply won’t be able to go.”

Ms Benson highlighted how these parents will therefore be at risk of becoming unemployed.

“This puts them at risk of losing their jobs or forces them to resign, leading to more financial hardship and additional stress and anxiety,” she explained.

“The Government needs to properly consider the needs of single parents and to ensure their jobs are protected while they have to look after their children at home.

“Without childcare, single parents simply cannot work and if they can’t work more children will end up living in poverty.” 

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