pound;8.5m childcare boost for lone-parent students

6th July 2001 at 01:00
John Cairney on another group of beneficiaries of the Executive's social inclusion agenda: Deborah Doyle is a lone parent from Garthamlock, in Greater Easterhouse, Glasgow. She has five children, all boys between the ages of 15 months and 10 years.

Ms Doyle is studying for an SVQ Level 2 in community work in John Wheatley College. She believes her chances of achieving a university place have been greatly enhanced by the Scottish Executive's latest package of financial support for parents in her position who wish to continue their formal education. Her youngest child attends the Hullaballoo childcare centre in the college, the venue for this week's launch of the scheme.

Lone parents in full-time higher education are to receive up to pound;1,000 a year towards their childcare costs thanks to the pound;24 million package unveiled by Jackie Baillie, the Social Justice Minister, Wendy Alexander, the Lifelong Learning Minister, and Nicol Stephen, the Deputy Education Minister. Ms Doyle said"This removes a major obstacle to taking part in full-time education."

About 3,500 lone parents each year stand to gain from the new means-tested regime, the first-ever childcare grant for higher education students in Scotland, which will cost pound;8.5 million over the next three years.

At the launch, Ms Baillie said that the new measures offer lone parents their best chance yet to progress to further and higher education. This, she said, should lead to better job opportunities, better incomes and a better way of life for their children.

"Only 48 per cent of lone parents of working age in Scotland have jobs and around 82,000 lone parents are on income support," Ms Baillie said. "Many need better qualifications to get jobs, yet feel unable to access further or higher education because they can't afford adequate child care."

Lone parents will also be able to get help with childcare costs from the new mature students bursary fund which can disburse grants of up to pound;2000. All the existing grants mean that a lone parent with one child starting in full-time HE this autumn could receive up to pound;6,500 in non-repayable support - as well as loans.

Graham Harrison, west of Scotland project manager for One Plus, the forum for lone parents which runs the Hullaballoo centre, welcomed the Executive package. "It is important to get quality and affordable child care and this money will hopefully provide people with an option to get a foothold back into employment."

The other elements of the package for the three years are:

* pound;7.5 million for FE colleges to widen childcare provision, which aims to benefit up to 5,000 students both part-time and full-time. This is in addition to the pound;3 million childcare funds for FE students announced in May last year.

* pound;8 million for local authorities to increase their support for out of school clubs in disadvantaged areas, which should sustain places for up to 4,000 children.

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