Poverty is still a barrier to learning

14th October 2005 at 01:00
No money and no confidence are major reasons why disadvantaged adults do not move easily into education, training or work.

A Scottish Executive survey of advice available to disadvantaged groups shows that there are multiple barriers in their way. Those who are in jobs and fall out of them cite poor health, disabilities, employer attitudes and motherhood for quitting.

Researchers interviewed 90 advice workers in 37 organisations, surveyed 117 people who use advice centres and interviewed a further 35 of them. One in four of the service users was in education or training.

The team comments: "For those seeking to develop their skills and education, there were some questions over the access, availability and relevance of courses that may be driven by administrative concerns more than the individual training needs."

For many, it is complex to move off benefits to education or training.

Bills and debts are one barrier, poor health is another, especially for those with a disability.

Childcare was important for women, especially lone parents. Former prisoners felt discriminated against, as did those with a physical disability. Transport problems were important.

Some adults perceived that poor reading and writing abilities thwarted their progress.

The researchers state: "Access to suitable childcare was top of the list of gaps in advice that could affect transitions to work. Barriers remain in the benefits system . . . particularly for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems."

Informal services were trusted sources of support for individuals with multiple barriers to overcome but were less likely than formal advice centres to offer the depth of support needed, or advocacy services.

Most people surveyed had used more than one advice service, and most had used Jobcentre Plus. Women were more likely to use formal services, voluntary sector groups and student support services, while men were more likely to use informal support.

Transitions to employment: advising disadvantaged groups is on the Scottish Executive website.

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