Childcare supported for at least one more year

A scheme which supports thousands of teenage parents in further education has been reprieved – at least for a year.

Care to Learn, which helps parents under 20 who meet the specific requirements claim up to £160-a-week for childcare and related transport cost, was last year put under review by the Department for Education (DfE).

A consultation launched in August sought feedback on the childcare support scheme to move to either a discretionary fund, link support to income, change weekly rates paid or – the DfE’s preferred option – change the age criteria.

Any changes, the DfE said, would be implemented from September 2012.

However, although results of the consultation have not been published, the DfE has confirmed that there will be no changes in 2012/13.

A spokesman for the DfE said: “There will be no changes to the Care to Learn childcare support scheme in 2012/13.”

He added: “Funding arrangements from 2013/14 are still under review. We haven’t yet published the results of the consultation, but intend to in due course.”

The initial news of no change for the scheme in the forthcoming year has been met with delight by the National Union of Students (NUS).

NUS have been campaigning for retention of the scheme, which 77 per cent of recipients said was essential in enabling them to attend college, and which reduced the rate of teenage parents who were not in education, employment or training.

Their campaign involved working with organisations including the British Youth Council and the University and College Union.

Estelle Hart, NUS national women’s officer, said: “Care to Learn is a lifeline to many young parents who are looking to continue their education whilst caring for their children.

“When it was put under review there was a great deal of concern that it would be the latest victim of cuts which disproportionately affecting young people and women.

“NUS made a concerted effort to demonstrate the value of Care to Learn to officials and we’re delighted that they recognise its importance and hope that they will continue to do so in the future.”

Although delighted at the news, Toni Pearce, NUS vice president for FE, said: “We are still concerned about what could happen in the future.

“It’s a huge win to protect it for a year and that’s something we have to be aware of, because it’s a whole year of students who will benefit from it.”

In 2009-10, the programme cost around £37 million and provided childcare support to 7,933 young parents. The scheme currently supports around 6,300 young parents.

It was introduced as a pilot in 2002 making childcare funding available to those aged between 16 and 18 and extended to under-16s in 2004 and to 19-year-olds in April 2006.