Life’s a funny old thing these days, isn’t it?!
We might be cautiously tip-toeing towards our new normal, but that in itself has thrown up a whole new bunch of worries for furloughed parents waiting to be called back to their office-based jobs.
After nearly four months of homeschooling, schools are now breaking up for the traditional summer holidays – just at the point where businesses are preparing to recall their banished workers, which raises the tricky issue of childcare. After being forced to grind to a halt, businesses are desperate to reopen; if a parent can’t return to their workplace as soon as the restrictions lift, they could be in danger of losing their job completely.
Even if you squeak through the holidays, there’s still so much uncertainty. While reassurances have been made that all children will be back in school come September, nobody is quite sure how that’s actually going to play out. Wraparound care and after-school clubs have been suspended indefinitely and schools have announced plans for classroom bubbles, staggered start times and even half days to allow time for teacher planning and social distancing. All of which makes perfect sense, but piles on the anxiety for working parents, many of whom rely on those clubs to cover their work hours.
Added to all of that is the overhanging worry that, should an outbreak occur, the entire school will instantly shut down for deep cleaning.
So what ARE the options for working parents – do you know where to find childcare after lockdown?
1: Have an honest chat with your employer
Is there an option to drop down to part time (if financially viable for you), or can you continue to work from home? If not, is there a way you can switch to flexi-hours, either starting late or finishing early, so you can share the pick up and drop off with your partner?
2: Rely on your family ties
With social bubbles slowly expanding – do you have any family members who might be able to lend a hand, just until the world finds its feet again? One positive from this experience is that it’s reminded us how important family is – whether from being pushed together, or forced apart, by quarantine. We’ve relearned how to lean on each other.
3: Ask around the other school parents
Do you have a class Facebook group? Post a message and see if anyone else is in the same boat as you; if social distancing allows you to form a ‘bubble’, you might be able to come up with a schedule where you take turns to take the kids after school for a couple of hours (which also means you have built-in playmates to keep your children entertained).
4: Utilise professional childcare
Childcare.co.uk is the UK’s largest online community of parents, childcare providers, household helpers, schools and private tutors. Since launching in 2009, over two million people have used the service to find and connect with the childcare they need and – more recently – where to find childcare after lockdown.
Arrangements can be made via the Childcare.co.uk website or the IOS or Android app (search childcare.co.uk), and can even be added as an Alexa skill. Not only can you quickly and easily sort out your regular childcare needs, the site specialises in providing last minute and emergency care – a lifesaver for those times when your usual arrangements fall through, or for situations like schools being closed at short notice.
There are even specialist listings for NHS and key workers looking for regular or emergency childcare, providing you priority access to the support you need.
You have the option of a free membership and a gold membership that allows more direct access to all the childcare providers listed on the site. To find local childcare, you simply enter your postcode and what you’re looking for – anything from childminding, to virtual tutoring – and the site reveals a list of members who match your criteria. You can then read through their biographies, experience and hourly rates to decide who you feel comfortable approaching.
Childcare.co.uk provides the platform for people to promote their services, but it’s up to you to verify their background and check their qualifications; to help, the site has a guide on how to check childcare providers.
Don’t forget to find out what assistance you’re entitled to – currently the Government funds 30 hours a week of free childcare for children aged 3-4 years old (until they start reception).
Having professional, reliable care in place means one less thing to worry about – particularly while our post-Covid lives are still so up in the air – freeing up parents to concentrate on returning to work, or continuing to work from home.
It’s much-needed peace of mind for working parents.
• if you enjoyed reading about where to find childcare after lockdown and you’re still working remotely, you might like to check out my Top 5 Tips to Working from Home