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Need for after-school care for 11-14s

I welcome the establishment of the new Child Poverty Unit. To be truly effective, it must address the failures of the welfare to work agenda, and the complexities and difficulties of the benefits and tax credits system.

One of the biggest failures is in the lack of a true, secure, infrastructure of affordable, accessible and available childcare for children of all ages.

Still Home Alone, a report published this week by Karen Buck MP, with 4Children, points out the glaring lack of services for children in the 11 to 14 age group, an age when they may be far more vulnerable to involvement in petty crime.

Parents report that, while at work, they worry about what their older children are doing after school as they are either at home alone or out - but where and doing what?

Those same parents may then be "blamed" for unsupervised, "out of control" young people - yet they cannot be in two places at once and, especially, if they are lone parents, they may not even have the choice of going out to work or being at home after school.

From research, we know that 11 to 14-year-olds do not need or want childcare as such. They do need somewhere to go and interesting things to do after school and they do want to be with their peers. Their parents need to know they are safe and content.

How many parents even know that they can claim childcare tax credits to help pay for registered services for 11 to 14-year-olds?

There should be new and ongoing financial investment in services for this age group, services designed for and by older children. They should have more freedom and autonomy, and opportunities to enjoy play, care, learning and leisure pursuits after school which are more suitable for that older age range.

Any government strategy must cover children of all ages.

Irene Audain, chief executive, Scottish Out of School Care Network, Wellington Street, Glasgow.

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