Parents should be financially compensated during the coronavirus outbreak as childcare should be recognised as full-time work, a new report has suggested.
As families enter their second week after COVID-19 caused schools to shut, many parents have been forced to juggle the role of teacher, caregiver, while also staying on top of their working from home schedules.
But, a leading think-tank has called for parents to be paid for the extra childcare they are having to provide for children during the outbreak.
A paper by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) claims parents should have the right to paid parental leave for those who need to look after children, under the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
Should the move go ahead it would be in line with schemes in France, Italy and the US.
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The IPPR briefing paper, released on Tuesday and titled Children of the Pandemic, also calls for an increase in the child element of universal credit by £10 a week, and the removal of the two-child limit for benefits payments.
The IPPR also wants to see measures introduced to ensure all children can access learning resources online, with mobile network providers asked to extend free data for use of BBC and other educational websites.
There are calls for the government to set up an emergency “digital access fund” to provide tablets or other digital devices to households where children cannot get online.
The organisation believes the measures would help protect “vulnerable children” from becoming “unseen victims of coronavirus”.
Clare McNeil, IPPR associate director for work and the welfare state, and co-author of the paper is now urging the government to go further with its financial support for parents.
“Caring for children needs to be recognised for what it is – a full-time occupation,” she said.
“The government needs to give people who are unable or unwilling to work from home while caring for children the option of paid leave for the duration of this crisis, as other countries have done.
“And to prevent children in newly unemployed families from falling into poverty or hardship as a result of this crisis, the government must invest further in universal credit to make it a genuine safety net – not a tightrope over poverty.”
“For all the children of the pandemic, a normal childhood is out of reach for the foreseeable future.
“We need to intervene now to reduce the financial, educational and health gaps that will otherwise only widen while this crisis endures.”
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady backed the IPPR’s call for a right to paid parental leave during the crisis. "With schools and nurseries closed, lots of parents with younger children have no choice but to care for them at home. For many, this means they can no longer work.
"Parents urgently need paid parental leave and protection from losing their jobs during this exceptional time.
“The government should make clear that parents can qualify for the coronavirus job retention scheme. And it should be available on a flexible basis, to enable shorter working hours and shared childcare between parents where possible."
Additional reporting PA.