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Fund single parents to gain FE qualifications and boost economy, says charity

Investing in supporting single parents to get an FE qualification could lift thousands of families out of poverty and boost the economy by up to £670m, a new report claims.

According to Gingerbread, a charity supporting single parents, people who gain a level 3 qualification – equivalent to an A-level – earn more, pay more taxes and need less support from benefits.

Although some 60 per cent of single parents work, many are raising children in poverty and are trapped between insecure, low paid jobs and unemployment, the charity said. Single parents need access to further education to “open the door” to future higher-paid employment, it adds.

However, they are often deterred from entering FE by the conditions attached to benefits and the recent introduction of learning loans to fund adult courses has also been a deterrent, it claims.

The charity is today calling for the government to provide funding for unemployed single parents to gain their first level 3 qualification.

Its report includes a cost-benefit analysis by the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion, which shows the government could make £670 million over seven years by supporting unemployed single parents to study and return to work.

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “It’s time for the government to take a longer term approach and help single parents to break the damaging cycle of short-term, poorly paid work. Supporting single parents to gain a key qualification means fewer families in poverty and gains for the Treasury.”

The findings are backed by adult education body Niace, whose deputy chief executive, Carol Taylor, said family learning was the solution.

“The economy and society will benefit from single parents being part of a highly-motivated workforce, who want to earn their own money, reduce their reliance on benefits and be a positive role model for their children,” she said.

“All these outcomes have a deeply rooted association with family learning provision and this is reflected in research carried out about the experiences and progression of those who access courses.”

A spokeswoman for the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis), said skills funding is already prioritised where it will make the biggest impact on the unemployed and low-skilled.

She added: "In 2014-15 full funding will continue to be available for skills training for unemployed people in receipt of benefits.

"For those aged 24 and over wanting a first Level 3 qualification, advanced learning loans are available, re-payable only when the individual is employed and earning a certain wage."

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