Anglesey nurse claims key workers ‘left in the lurch’ over lack of summer childcare
The children of Welsh key workers are “falling through the cracks,” it has been claimed, leaving many families to struggle with childcare due to a lack of available support over the school summer holidays.
Many parents – particularly those working in the health and care sector – are said to have been “left in the lurch” following the decision not to continue with school-based childcare hubs on a Wales-wide basis after the closure of most schools last week.
The Welsh Government says that £2.6m had been made available to fund childcare for vulnerable children and under fives, but could also provide places for critical workers’ children if they wished.
But only four Welsh councils – and none in north Wales – currently offer such a service for children not considered to be vulnerable.
This, say Senedd Members, has resulted in several families being faced with “last minute and unforeseen” issues, with many finding that usual child minding services are already full to capacity.
And with many grandparents still shielding, this has left parents with limited options.
Clare McMullan of Holyhead, a district nurse and mother of two, says that she’s unable to take more annual leave but has been left “in the lurch” with the island’s schools not opening back until mid September.
“The kids are seven and eight years old and their father works abroad in Saudi Arabia, ” said Clare, 33.
“So it’s been a very difficult time with him not able to fly back and see them since January, whereas he would usually take care of them during some of the school holidays.
“Once I realised that the previous childcare was no longer being offered I found that many were unable to take on more children due to social distancing, with the nearest available childminders being in Amlwch and Menai Bridge, which are both an hour’s round trip.
“At a cost of £60 a day for two children, and the travel on top, it would hardly be worth working let alone if they’d be willing to take them as early as I’d have to drop them off.
“I know that some Welsh councils are offering the childcare over the summer and it feels like a bit of a postcode lottery, and seems to be down to how councils interpret it.
“To me it feels like the council and government are blaming each other, but in the meantime nothing is being sorted.”
She added: “Out of the four grandparents, three are key workers and the other’s shielding and I’ve got no option but to ask them for help.
“But there are days when they won’t be able to, probably forcing me to ask friends and really to break the bubbling up.
“It feels like I’m causing a massive risk factor and that’s just my household, and I know there will be other mum’s in a similar position.
“The children used to attend the sports centre for childcare over weekends when the service was available, and we expected this to continue over the summer but it feels like the rug was pulled from under our feet.
“From the start I have been very aware that my role as a nurse is putting my children at risk, yet I have never hesitated in doing it.
“But now I need some help.“
The island’s Senedd Member, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said that some parents are having to consider giving up work as a result.
He added: “I’ve been in contact with Anglesey Council and they are clearly frustrated that after putting a detailed plan in place to deliver childcare for key workers over the summer, a last minute decision by Welsh Government not to fund it meant the plans could no longer be delivered.
“I have also written to Welsh Government, asking them to reconsider the decision urgently, or to at least review the rules on extended households so that key workers have more childcare options.”
In response, Anglesey Council chief executive Annwen Morgan, said: “As we progress our recovery programme and with the lifting of restrictions this allows for childcare to be delivered by more normal means.
“The repurposing of schools has been reversed, and the Welsh Government will not be funding childcare for school-aged children of key workers over the summer.
“Given this the current child care provision will not be available over the summer holidays for school age children of key workers, however families wishing to access childcare are welcome to contact Teulu Môn who will provide a list of registered providers who would be able to meet their needs.”
She added: “The Children and Families Services are currently constructing a summer support programme for our most vulnerable children, many of whom have found lockdown conditions particularly challenging and detrimental.
“This programme will seek to deliver bespoke support for those assessed to be our most isolated children and young people suffering from increased stresses and substantial psychological inequality.
“The programme will be configured around current resource, allowing services to deliver increased opportunities for safe social interaction and enhanced well-being and mental health interventions.”
“Again, we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to parents and carers for their understanding and cooperation during these challenging times.”
To contact Teulu Môn call 01248 725888 or e-mail TeuluMon@ynysmon.gov.uk
A Welsh Government spokesperson added: “We have announced £2.6m to support our more vulnerable children over the summer holidays, providing childcare and play opportunities and helping them to re-engage with learning.
“We have seen a number of childcare and play settings reopen in recent weeks, providing parents with a range of services over the summer.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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