Presenting his bingo budget to parliament last week, George Osborne congratulated himself on a plan to build a ‘resilient economy’ and to reward the ‘doers’ as well as the savers.
And was met by an almighty shrug of the shoulder from people across the country working two of three jobs just to get by- to heat their homes and put food on the table for their kids.
Since the ConDem Government came to power four years ago, the use of insecure zero-hour contracts has spiked throughout the UK. The number of people desperate to work full time but who can only find part-time jobs has soared to over 1.4 million.
And – even as food and energy bills, rents and fares continue to rise and wages stagnate – Iain Duncan Smith's punitive welfare reforms have decimated the support available to vulnerable families, driving more and more parents into low-wage work.
All of which means that thousands of parents in communities such as my own in the London Borough of Brent now have no choice but to work at night or in unpredictable shift patterns, and that their childcare needs have consequently changed in a big way.
Too often it’s a struggle for parents working irregular hours to find appropriate childcare. After one in five Brent parents indicated in a recent survey that they face this issue, I decided that my council was going to tackle it head on.
That’s why we’ve set up a new flexible childminding service to connect parents juggling work and family life with local qualified childminders who are able to care for children overnight or at short notice. 40 Ofsted registered childminders – including my wife – have already signed up.
And with Cameron and Clegg’s cost of living crisis squeezing family budgets, we know that hard-working parents are in desperate need of affordable childcare. That’s why I’m proud that childminders taking part in our flexible care scheme have agreed to set night time charges to match their day rates.
Now, if a Brent resident needs to attend a job interview at short notice, they can. And local businesses don't have to worry that talented employees will have to quit their job because they can't secure or afford decent childcare to suit their hours. Most importantly, children will benefit from receiving high-quality one-to-one care in a home environment no matter the hour.
Brent Council is working closely with partners including local job centres, children’s centres and other community organisations to spread the word about this brilliant new service.
With austerity biting and more ConDem cuts to come, local councils are having to face up to the fact that we just aren’t able to directly deliver all the services our residents expect from us and deserve anymore. But we can still help people to band together to lighten one another’s loads. I’m proud of the support we’re offering to help hard-working parents – the ‘doers of two and three jobs at once – to get on in these tough times.
Muhammed Butt is the Leader of Brent Council.