THE nightmare of summer holiday childcare has come around again – but this year the usual solutions might not work due to the effects of Covid-19.
Grandparents, friends and holiday camps may not be available to help out due to distancing rules. It comes after parents have already struggled with months of home-tutoring following the closure of schools in March, with households losing an average £131 of income every week.
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Here’s our guide to the options available.
Hol clubs limiting numbers
SOME holiday clubs are shut and some have limited numbers, leaving parents scrumming for places.
Camp Beaumont, a day camp based in schools in London, Surrey, Kent and Berkshire, is running at 50 per cent capacity to ensure children are socially distanced and group bubbles are not too big.
Jof Gaughan, the camp’s executive director, said there had been unprecedented demand, with many of the camps sold out.
He added: “The huge demand was one of the main reasons why we worked so hard to operate this summer when other camp providers decided not to, because we felt it was an important service which parents needed.”
Grandparents must distance
FOUR in five grandparents provide childcare to help out in normal times – however far fewer were doing it during lockdown.
But they are now back in action after an easing of the rules, although hugging is still off limits for some.
In England, two households can meet together anywhere, including each other’s houses, which means grandparents can visit their son’s or daughter’s house and look after the kids.
They will still need to distance themselves unless two households form a “support bubble”, but this is only possible if one party is an adult living on their own or as a single parent.
That means no hugs from Granny, who must be kept one metre away, preferably two metres.
But it’s easier in Scotland, where three households can come together indoors, and under-12s don’t need to distance themselves from other children or adults.
In Wales, two households of any size can come together to form an “extended household” with no distancing required. This is to help working parents with informal childcare over the summer.
People from outside the extended household are also allowed in to care for a child, so both sets of grandparents could help out.
Over-70s are advised to be extra careful with hand washing and distancing.
Al fresco fun with friends
PARENTS often share childcare in the school holidays, sometimes taking groups of kids at a time, but they will be more limited this year.
If you want to look after multiple children, you’ll need to keep them outside due to the limits on the number of people from other households you can have in your home.
In England, up to six people from different households can meet outdoors, so you could in theory look after your own child and four of their school friends in the park.
In Scotland, children under 12 can meet outdoors with members of up to four other households at a time, but in Wales it’s only one, so you could only help out one other family.
Lucky Scottish youngsters under 12 don’t need to distance from their friends outdoors, but others are encouraged to, as far as possible.
Note that the law says that unless they’re a registered childminder, you can’t use a friend to regularly look after a child under eight for more than two hours a day during normal working hours.
If you pay your friend, they can look after the child no more than three hours a day.
‘App helps me arrange play dates’
SINGLE mum Diane O’Hara has found an innovative solution to arranging summer holiday childcare for her daughter Olivia, nine.
As well as using annual leave, help from her own mum and a holiday club, she will also use an app that helps her arrange play dates and school pick-ups at the click of a button.
Diane, 38, from Canary Wharf, East London, who works in publishing, is expecting the We Are Fetching app to be a huge help during the summer.
She said: “The summer holidays are always really difficult. The amount of childcare is a big barrier to going to work and it always seems to fall on women.
“I have friends who have turned down jobs because of it, as they can’t afford childcare and feel guilty at having to rely on others.
“When I’m not at work I’m planning to use the app to look after Olivia and some of her friends, and I’ll arrange for other parents to do the same for me when I need it.
“You build up credits on the app so everyone does their fair share.
“It makes it so much easier to arrange play dates, as the app sends out a request to 12 of my family members and friends and someone always picks it up quickly.
“It also means the kids will see a wider circle of friends over the summer, which will be really good for them. Due to distancing rules, they’ll probably spend a lot of time playing outdoors in the park.”
Home alone may be risky
THERE is no legal age a child can be left home alone, but it’s an offence to do so if it puts them at risk.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time, while children under 16 should not be left alone overnight.
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