National strategy to help parents juggle work and family

The Government is to produce a national childcare strategy to help parents balance family and job commitments and build on the work carried out by training and enterprise councils.

Under the TECs' Out of School Childcare Initiatives, some 74,000 childcare places in after-school clubs and nurseries have been created in England over four years. Alan Howarth, the employment minister, told a conference in London: "Childcare initiatives are improving the quality and quantity of childcare available outside school hours and during school holidays and enabling thousands of parents, especially women, to combine family and working life.

"Childcare provision can bring real business benefits to employers by helping them to attract and retain staff with school-age children. It also gives employees the peace of mind they need to pay full attention to their jobs, allows them to consider longer working hours, and can reduce absenteeism caused when informal childcare arrangements break down.

"Employers have a stake in better childcare opportunities because they can help to improve productivity, build a motivated workforce, and save money. They can also enable women to return to work or upgrade their skills," he said.

Research commissioned by Tyneside TEC showed that the initiative had had a significant impact on families. Some 90 per cent of parents interviewed had witnessed an increase in their household income despite paying for childcare and 46 per cent of these had seen an increase of more than Pounds 50 per week.

Since 1991 Tyneside TEC has helped to create more than 1,000 new childcare places for school-age children through after-school and holiday clubs. The clubs are used by 86 per cent of families surveyed after school. More than half the families surveyed use the clubs during the school holidays, putting school buildings to practical use.

The scheme has meant that 39 per cent of parents have been able to remain in work, 41 per cent have been able to extend their training. While 9 per cent started training, 12 per cent had started work, 5 per cent had been able to look for work or training, and others could now do voluntary work.

Olivia Grant, chief executive of Tyneside TEC, said: "Tyneside TEC has been a pioneer in this area for the past six years. We have consistently recognised childcare as an integral component of economic regeneration."

Since the clubs began on Tyneside there are now two established Out of School Care Consortia. In Gateshead there is a consortium of 11 clubs, currently registering as a business charity with support from the TEC and local authority.

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