Budget boost for early years services

Chancellor Gordon Brown has boosted funding for child care and
early years services by £669m by 2008 – an annual growth rate
of more than 17 per cent.

The money will go towards creating 1,700 children’s centres – one
for each of the 20 per cent poorest wards in England.

The chancellor also announced more financial support for teenagers.
As well as introducing a £3 minimum hourly wage for 16 and 17
year olds, he promised a package of short-term measures including
giving young people who undertake unwaged training the same
financial support as those in school.

Child care groups have responded warmly to the cash boost for early
years services.

The Budget also sets out new measures to encourage non-working
parents in couple families into employment even where the other
partner is working, and also partners of jobseekers allowance

There are to be more “Discovery weeks” for lone parents, aimed at
boosting their confidence to seek employment, and there will also
be more “child care tasters” – giving lone parents the chance to
try out child care for a week without committing themselves.

It was also announced in the Budget that extended schools are to be
piloted in an extra four areas.

Brown said that there would be a 30 per cent cut in jobs at the
Department for Educational and Skills’ London headquarters.

Budget plans to extend the minimum wage to 16 and 17-year olds have
met with a broad welcome from children’s charities. From October
young workers will be entitled to at least £3 per hour.

NCH policy officer George McNamara said young people needed proper
protection from the exploitation of unscrupulous employers.

“This brings long-awaited fairness into the workplace and will be
applauded by teenagers up and down the country,” he added.

Barnardo’s, however, was disappointed that the minimum was set at a
level it described as “inadequate.”

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