Go, go , go – the September onslaught

It’s September and everyone is hitting the ground running.

Female athlete jumping above the hurdle

 

It’s the first full week back since the holidays and, even though many schools are not back yet and some are facing temporary closure due to the concrete issue, it feels like everything is ramping up big time. Childcare is back with a vengeance with a new childcare coalition being launched this week as well as the first of the big surveys. In the lead-up to the roll-out of the Government’s extension of its ‘free’ childcare policy, with concerns about the impact on childcare providers, and with a general election in the offing next year, much more activity is to be expected as providers fight in some cases for their survival.

Meanwhile, we are anticipating benefits changes this month with the Government bringing in changes to the rules for the main carers of three year olds, meaning they will have to work or be available to work up to 30 hours a week unless their circumstances prevent them, for instance, childcare is not available. This is almost double the current 16-hour rule. Charities and academics criticised the move as “unconscionable” when it was first announced, saying it “devalues unpaid care” and will disproportionately affect single mothers.

The Government’s argument is that work is the route out of poverty and that it is providing extra support on childcare, including through Universal Support. It recently increased the percentage of childcare parents can claim back through Universal Credit to 85%. Upfront childcare fees are also being covered.

Yet many people who are working are struggling on benefits due to low wages and job insecurity. What’s more this week saw a report from the think tank IPPR which suggested that Universal Credit conditionality rules are not working either for employers or jobseekers. Single parent Caroline Rice told workingmums.co.uk about her experience of jobseeking. The DWP says local childcare availability will be taken into account when it comes to sanctions. Caroline is dubious. She says her experience is that childcare is seen mainly as relating to preschool children. Once children hit primary school age she says there is little account taken of afterschool and holiday cover. And we know from surveys that availability as well as cost are huge issues when it comes to these.

Childcare is just one piece of the jigsaw though. Debt is a huge problem for many families – and is a major focus of workingmums.co.uk’s 2023 survey, out in mid-September – and is expected to increase over the winter months, with interest rates expected to rise further. Although energy bills are coming down, last winter’s government support is not available this time round and it is anticipated they will go up slightly in January. Moreover, a Resolution Foundation analysis this week suggests there will be no improvement in living standards for working-age households before the general election.

It’s not a very optimistic outlook and, according to a recent survey by Reuters, bad news is not what people want to hear when many are living it every day. The survey says people want news that focuses more on solutions. That’s understandable. I only have to look at my kids’ response to the news to see how they are turning away from it because it seems ‘too depressing’ and beyond their control.

In that spirit, workingmums.co.uk is launching its first Return to Work Week at the end of September. It’s your chance to ask our range of experts any questions you might have on returning to work after any kind of break, however big or small. We hope it will provide you with ideas and inspiration to find the kind of work that suits you and your family.



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