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Creche scheme raised job prospects

A child-care project run by a London TEC has enabled many parents to improve their job prospects and increase their earning potential, according to new research.

The Institute for Employment Studies at the University of Sussex evaluated the project undertaken by the Central London Training and Enterprise Council (CENTEC). This involved 25 schemes, providing after-school and holiday child care, and some breakfast schemes.

The researchers found that the project had a considerable impact on parents. Twenty-four per cent of parents had been able to work longer hours since their children started using the scheme: 14 per cent said the scheme had enabled them to go back to education or undertake some training; 13 per cent had been able to get a better job or promotion.

Information on the employment situation of parents before and after they began using the scheme showed a marginal improvement in their labour market position.

A slightly higher proportion of the sample surveyed were in a full-time job or were self-employed, and fewer parents were working on a part-time basis, in voluntary work and not working.

Some parents had been given the opportunity to escape the "poverty trap" of relying on state benefit.

The project has also affected the local community in other ways. For example, it has contributed to the creation of new jobs, many of which have been taken up by women.

The TEC was also able to advise and train those providing the scheme on issues related to its long-term viability, such as fundraising, financial matters, business planning and marketing.

Child-care staff tend to have little experience of financial and business issues, and the project's support in this area was considered essential.

Shortly after the project was established, the TEC carried out a mailshot of more than 200 large companies with the message, "Child care is a business issue".

A questionnaire was also sent to gather information on employers' policies and practices in relation to child-care provision.

The survey found that 93 per cent of respondents believed that child-care was an important issue, 71 per cent had actively recruited working parents, but most organisations did not provide or subsidise child care.

Raising awareness about child-care issues among employers and setting an example of good practice was a central part of CENTEC's strategy in relation to employers.

It was the first TEC to become a member of "Employers for Child Care", a forum of the UK's major employers who regard child care as a key business issue, and are campaigning for a national policy and strategy on the subject.

Parents said the main effect of closing the scheme would be on their ability to work longer hours. Twenty per cent would have to reduce their involvement in trainingeducation or give it up, 13 per cent would have to change jobs, and 9 per cent would have to give up paid employment.

Only 11 per cent of parents said closure would make no difference to them in relation to job prospects.

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