As the school summer holidays approach, the sense of excitement is palpable in our children (and teachers!)
I’ve enjoyed visiting many of the end-of-term events at our local schools – assemblies and school fairs, and was very pleased I could go to my youngest’s school sports day (as was my son).
In this job and previous ones, I’ve not always been able to go to sports day and I know only too well the guilt of every working parent.
Getting time off work for children’s events – or for holidays – is a problem for many parents. We think of summer holidays as a time for joy and fun, but six weeks is a long time, and if you can’t get time off work, juggle with a partner or relatives, it can become very difficult.
There are some great holiday activity clubs around High Peak, but they aren’t cheap. I used to help run the holiday club at my children’s primary school, and even when simply covering costs, it was hard to keep prices down.
Many parents end up working simply to pay childcare costs over the summer, and that can put a big dent in your budget. High Peak Borough Council says August is one of the worst months for collecting rent as so many parents are struggling.
Last week I hosted an event in Parliament for Save the Children where mums and dads from around the country told of their difficulties over summer holidays and how the debts they accumulate then can take a year to pay off – until the next summer.
With benefit levels so low, without free school dinners over the holidays, some parents struggle even to afford enough for their children to eat.
Last year our local food banks reported more families needing food in the summer holiday. Thank you to those who’ve helped to organise daily packed lunches for children this year to help families get by.
But it shouldn’t be necessary in the fifth richest country in the world to have thousands of families needing food banks in High Peak.
That’s why I asked my Select Committee to produce a report on what’s needed to make summer holidays less stressful – financially and emotionally.
We’ve found more organised and subsidised childcare would help parents to stay in work, and stronger rights at work for parental leave and flexible working would help working parents to balance work and family. And benefits at a level so families have enough to eat are essential.
I hope the new Prime Minister will listen to our recommendations. Summer holidays should be a time for all families to enjoy time together, making the memories that will live with our children forever.