The Family and Childcare Trust aims to make the UK a better place for families, through research, campaigning and information provision, and working with government, employers and parents to reduce pressures on family life. Parental Choice spoke to Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, about Family Friendly Week (20-27 October) as well as his vision for a more family friendly UK:
Our legacy organisations – Daycare Trust and Family and Parenting Institute – had already begun to make inroads into many of the issues that might fall under this broad vision: affordable childcare that enabled parents to work the hours they need to provide for their families; research into how austerity had impacted on family life; research into what families need to enable a good work-life balance, and of course, our family friendly scheme that helped businesses to focus on the needs of families as employees and as customers.
The Family and Childcare Trust has continued to campaign for affordable, quality childcare, and only this year through our childcare costs survey we found that part-time childcare for a family with two children now exceeds the average mortgage payment in the UK. This headline came as no surprise to many families who see costs continue to rise every year against stagnant wages. The government has pledged to give further financial help to working parents through a new childcare voucher scheme, and it has extended free childcare places to more disadvantaged two year olds. While this is welcome news, we will continue to call for a radical review of the childcare system, which needs a new vision to reflect the realities of modern life today.
But childcare for working parents is only part of the journey to the UK becoming more family friendly. Employers can also do more to support parents and carers. This is why we re-launched our scheme, Family Friendly UK, so that we could continue to help organisations of all sizes to develop policies and practices that enable their employees strike a better balance between work and family life.
Through the scheme we support organisations to consider the needs of parents and carers who are employees, whether through sharing our research into the experiences of families, through helping businesses implement new legislation, or through working with organisations to design policies that promote staff engagement and flexible working. We also work with businesses to help them improve the experiences of family customers.
We have worked with a wide range of businesses, including large outfits such as Gatwick Airport, Barclays, Travelodge, easyJet and National Trust as well as a range of public, private and third sector organisations.
Getting accredited to Family Friendly UK is a simple process for organisations who are asked to submit evidence to support how they are helping parents who are employees. It has been developed in consultation with our members and has drawn on the experiences and views of families, the wider knowledge and skills of the Family and Childcare Trust, input from specialist HR organisations and businesses.
To reflect our focus on the whole family, we are changing the name of what used to be Parents’ Week to Family Friendly Week (20-27 October). The week will focus on the important role families play in society and encourage fun, quality family time. No two families are alike and during this week we will celebrate family diversity.
We will be using Family Friendly Week 2014 to examine how family friendly we are as a nation using certain indicators in our Report Card, and we’ll also be carrying out a survey of parents to explore the issues that are important to them. We know from our research that spending quality time together is important to families, and the theme of the week will reflect this through fun cooking and sharing activities. We’ll also be encouraging our businesses and other organisations to be involved in the week to share their initiatives to become more family friendly.
It is worth keeping an eye on our website – www.familyandchildcaretrust.org for further information about Family Friendly Week 2014 and all the fun competitions and activities you can get involved in, as well as other news about the work we are doing to make the UK a place where families can thrive.