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Project manager Jane Williams asks why the Government seems to be ignoring childcare and holiday cover for older children.
There’s an awful lot of coverage in the media at the moment about mothers of babies and pre-school children and their childcare needs, which is fine, but what tends to get forgotten is that older children need after-school and holiday clubs too, and there is woeful funding for these outside cities.
Speaking as the mother of an 8 and 12 year old, I get quite annoyed at the volume of articles about pre-school childcare and am looking forward to the time when the children of all the columnists who write about them start school so they face the same dilemmas as me, earn their stripes, and can start whinging about 15 miles per day on each school run before they go to work!
I should be at work this week, but I’m using the last of my precious leave because my younger child’s school holiday club is not open this Easter due to lack of funding. The manager relies totally on self-funding and was unable to get enough bookings this Easter to make opening viable so she couldn’t. Because the club was set up a few years ago it is not eligible for the government’s flagship ‘wraparound care’ status and the few grants that are available. It did, however, get £2,000 to paint a mural on a wall though, so that’s OK! It seems that there are some pots of money out there for various projects, but these projects seem to be very spurious and unrelated to the main issues.
There are some other holiday clubs around in my area, but they tend to be sport-specific and only open for fixed and limited hours or days, which is absolutely no good when I need 8 hours care a day for one sports-mad and one sports-averse child.
As children get older, their needs change. They don’t need 100% full-on care, as smaller children do, but do certainly need me around, the odd trip out etc. They’re too young to leave alone, have very definite ideas about what they like and dislike and have a very definite group of friends. They don’t want to be lumped in a group of other children the same age who they don’t know, so the only option as I see it is for the schools to offer holiday clubs so they’re with their peer group and with adults they know.
Also, as they get older, their grandparents get older too, and their interests diverge. They have less energy, are starting to get frail, and they’re not so tuned in to pre-teenagers as they were with the younger children. It doesn’t seem so fair to ask them to help out as they may have done with babies and toddlers.
In a nutshell, I’d like the government to understand these issues, and how they’re having an impact on working parents, and to properly fund holiday clubs for all school-age children. The children have over 13 weeks of time off school. Most parents have around eight to ten weeks off between them if they take all their holiday leave separately. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this doesn’t add up.
Jane Williams, public sector project manager