At least 1,200 children are set to receive almost two weeks of free childcare over the summer holidays as part of Essex County Council’s bid to help so called JAMs  – working families who are “just about managing”.

The pilot summer holiday camps involve Essex County Council funding the equivalent of 12,000 days of childcare through August, with those children who qualify able to attend for up to 10 working days.

The announcement on the 12,000 days across Essex  – 1,000 in each district – delivered in partnership with local groups coincided with the council’s separate pledge to invest £1m to increase the prosperity of those working families who are just about managing.

A series of pilots will be rolled out across the county once issues for the council to focus on are more specifically identified.

Both sets of investments are targeted to help those families struggling even though at least one adult is in employment.

Pressures on these households become even more stark during the summer holidays when an adult may be forced to take time off work to look after children.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which released a report into the struggles JAMs face earlier this week, added that although paid employment reduces the risk of poverty, in-work poverty has risen from 9.9 per cent of workers in 1997/98 to 12.7 per cent now.

Around 56 per cent of people in poverty are in a working family, compared with 39 per cent 20 years ago.

This change has been particularly dramatic for children – seven in ten children in poverty are now in a working family.

Falling benefit incomes and rising housing costs have pulled working families into poverty despite a growth in earnings.

This growth has only just brought earnings back to their level pre-recession for low income working families, who faced the biggest hit to their earnings during the recession.

Cabinet member for families and children Louise McKinlay said: “This administration is investing £1m to support working families that are just about managing.

“As I have outlined previously, this will be followed by a series of pilots that will be rolled out across the county.

“However, there is more to be done around researching and identifying the issues to focus on and I expect to have more announcements in July.

“However, I am pleased to announce a pilot scheme that we will be delivering this summer in partnership with Active Essex, to help families with childcare issues.”

The free childcare will be available from 8.30am to 5.30pm, including lunch, with a child able to sign up for a maximum of 10 of these sessions.

She added: “A sustainable programme for this is essential and we will continue to work closely with local community organisations, businesses, sporting and voluntary groups to ensure we maintain the expertise for future years.”