Coronavirus: 'I had no clue what to do with my little boy'

By Claire Gilbody-Dickerson
BBC News

  • Published
child at nursery schoolImage source, Getty
Image caption,
Zoe asked to be furloughed so she can look after her son while her partner returns to work

A mum who fears she will have to choose between her job and caring for her son is calling for more clarity from the government over what parents should do.

Zoe, 24 and from Plymouth, said she had "no clue what to do with my little boy" when people who cannot work remotely were told to return to their jobs.

The care home worker's partner had been looking after their son until the prime minister's announcement last week.

Now he is back in the workplace, Zoe has asked to be furloughed.

She is currently waiting to find out if she will be allowed to stay at home and care for their two-year-old boy and still receive an income.

The Department for Education (DfE) said in a statement that "employers should be as flexible as possible to support their employees with childcare responsibilities".

Zoe, from Plympton, who works for a vulnerable adult's home, had carried on working there since lockdown started in March.

But she has recently had to ask if she can stay at home, as her partner - who has the greater income of the two - was called back into work following Boris Johnson's announcement.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Boris Johnson wants those who cannot work from home to return to the workplace if possible

"It's all right for Boris Johnson to say 'go back to work' but I was in that situation where I had no clue what to do with my little boy," Zoe said.

"Not everybody is going to be lucky to have their employers say 'yes, you can stay at home'."

Zoe explained how before lockdown she relied on her 51-year-old mother to look after her son.

But with current restrictions on visiting relatives in separate households, she said she was "stuck in a predicament" as she could not afford to pay for childcare.

"I don't see why Boris Johnson is willing to put children at risk in nurseries but they can't go to a relative where they know they will be 100% safe," she said.

"It's wonderful for people who can afford and want to send their child to nursery.

"But for those who can't afford it or don't feel comfortable with their child mingling with other children, the government must clarify what we can and can't do."

Zoe, who has previously struggled with depression and anxiety, said even if her employer furloughs her, she fears she will lose her job when the furlough scheme ends in October.

"I know exactly how it's made me feel not being able to see my family or do anything other than taking a walk round the block for half an hour and then coming back and not doing anything," she said.

"I don't really want to be at home till October. I'm bored - I want to go to work."

She added: "There must be clarity for families who rely on their family to look after their children.

"It's just such a hard situation to be in."

The DfE statement added: "Schools have remained open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children, and parents are strongly encouraged to take up those places.

"We want to get children back into education as soon as it is safe to do so because it the best place for them to learn."

It said plans for more children to return to school from next month would allow more parents to go back to their jobs.

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