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Most key workers are women – many of them single parents – so the childcare issues created by coronavirus are big and the long-term impact on sharing childcare will be interesting.
It is estimated that 60% of key workers are women and that as many as 42% of key workers have at least one child aged 16 or under. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, they are more likely to be single parents and almost a third have a partner who is also a key worker. Most in health and education have either no partner or a partner who is working.
Childcare access is therefore crucial. While the Government urges parents who can to keep children at home, some nurseries and schools are providing childcare for key workers, there have been some issues around this.
Firstly, the definition of key workers is unclear, putting pressure on schools and parents. Many key workers don’t work daytime shifts, yet parents can no longer rely on grandparents or others to provide care due to the lockdown. Moreover, they may have been relying on family for childcare to reduce the cost of childcare.
We are receiving many emails from key workers who are struggling with childcare. While the Government has confirmed that early years assistance will remain in place during the coronavirus pandemic and has increased Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit payments, there is a real need to provide clearer advice and support to parents, particularly low-income single parents.
For those with partners, the next few weeks could see not only a sea change in approaches to remote working as more people work from home, but also greater involvement of dads in childcare, as more have to take on the primary carer role if they work from home and cannot access key formal childcare. That means not only working from home and doing childcare, but also taking the lead in homeschooling.
It will be interesting to watch what happens and what the impact is long term.
The Government has published the list of key workers whose children will still be able to access schools and nurseries during the coronavirus outbreak.