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Government's orders to return to work is forcing parents into ‘impossible childcare position,’ Labour charges

BORIS JOHNSON is putting parents in an “impossible position” by sending them back to work during the summer holidays without childcare support, Labour has charged today.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that Mr Johnson is penalising parents by failing to provide for childcare, holiday activities and catch-up schemes until schools reopen in September.

On Friday, Mr Johnson announced that bosses will decide whether or not to bring staff back to workplaces from August 1, when the “work from home if you can” advice will be officially scrapped.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has not announced any new funding for programmes during the six-week school summer holidays.

A £9 million holiday fund, touted by the government in June, will support 50,000 children — just 0.5 per cent of the nine million schoolchildren in England. 

But Labour noted that the fund was originally announced in January, before the first cases of Covid-19 were identified in Britain.

Meanwhile, many commercial summer activity providers have already cancelled programmes for this year.

Sir Keir will visit a school in Coventry today with shadow education secretary Kate Green.

“Despite ordering millions of parents back to the office, the PM has refused to provide any extra help for families, penalising parents by putting them in an impossible position,” the Labour leader said prior to the visit.

“Parents got a back-to-work notice on Friday just as the summer holidays began. But they got no support for structured activities, no summer catch-up schemes, and no support for a childcare sector on its knees.

“If we are going to reopen our society and economy safely and successfully, we need the public to have confidence in the government’s advice; we need test, track and trace to be working properly, and we need proper support for children to learn and for parents to get back to work.”

Labour’s intervention comes amid parents’ widespread frustration over the government’s handling of education.

Last week, a survey by Parentkind revealed that 70 per cent of parents think the government has handled the issue poorly during the coronavirus pandemic. Just 15 per cent thought that it has been handled well.

Labour has recently called on the government to provide targeted support for the struggling childcare sector, in a bid to prevent mass closure of nurseries. 

Thousands of childcare providers have closed in the last five years, with thousands more fearing that they will not be able to remain open this year.

A survey of 3,000 pre-schools, nurseries and childminders, conducted in April by the Early Years Alliance, found that 25 per cent of respondents — about 75,100 — felt that it was “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely” that they would be operating in a year’s time.

On Friday, the Trades Union Congress accused Mr Johnson of “passing the buck” to bosses on when to return staff to workplaces, risking public health for profit.

General secretary Frances O’Grady also raised serious concerns about childcare provision for parents, saying: “Not everyone will be able to return to workplaces full time or immediately.

“People who have been advised to shield and those without enough childcare may need to work from home for the foreseeable future.”

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