North East Calls for Local Restrictions Change on Childcare
Leaders across the North East have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling on him to amend new local COVID-19 restriction measures to allow families to continue their usual childcare arrangements.
Seven local authorities came together to request stricter measures across the region in response to rapidly rising infection rates, in order to avoid an imposed local lockdown.
In their request to the Department of Health Social Care, the leaders of Northumberland, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham requested that people be able to enter other households for the purposes of childcare while the main carer was at work.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock approved a host of new regulations but rejected this request from the North East local authority leaders.
Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "This is a major issue for so many South Tyneside families who rely on others for informal childcare, with friends and relatives providing a real lifeline so that parents can continue to work.
"Our region requested that the Government allow these informal childcare arrangements to remain in place to support those families, many of which are key workers, and have continued to work extremely hard in such incredibly challenging circumstances.
"This 'ask' was rejected by the Department of Health and Social Care. We thank Government for their support, but we need them to reverse this decision urgently.
"We are hugely disappointed by the Government's rejection to this. Many parents who rely on informal, family childcare arrangements are now left in very difficult and stressful circumstances. With their arrangements now in jeopardy, many are facing tough decisions and much uncertainty around work or care for their children.
"Not all families can afford to pay for childcare which is why so many parents and carers rely on the goodwill of their extended family members. We are now calling on the Government to support our working parents and reconsider its position on childcare as a matter of urgency. We would also encourage those affected to support us by lobbying the Government too."
Jonathan Walker, Policy Director, North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: "Childcare provided by close family and friends is an unseen pillar upon which our economy rests. It enables parents to return to work, provides flexibility for those who work long or irregular hours and is an invaluable resource for sole traders and new entrepreneurs. The Government's announcement has already created a huge amount of uncertainty for employees and employers alike.
"Furthermore, the exclusion of informal childcare is a deeply regressive step. It will negatively affect parents and carers, especially those on lower incomes more profoundly at a time when we should be building an economic recovery that is fair for all. Government must immediately amend these restrictions."
The new restrictions introduced to tackle rising infection rates came into effect on Friday, September 18. They include a ban on social mixing with other households and new regulations for the hospitality trade among a number of changes. Find more details about the new restrictions at www.southtyneside.gov.uk/70473