Call for entire benefits system to be accessible to parents under 16

Teenage parents aged under 16 should be
entitled to the same benefits for their children as any other
parents, according to the independent advisory group (IAG)on
teenage pregnancy.

Reforming the benefits system is one of 49
recommendations made by the IAG in its first annual report,
published last week.

The group, which is made up of 28 members
drawn from a range of professional fields, including housing,
health and education, was set up in 2000 to advise on the
government’s teenage pregnancy strategy.

The strategy, developed by the teenage
pregnancy unit, sets out a 30-point plan to improve prevention and
halve the teenage pregnancy rate by 2010 and to provide better
support to teenage parents.

Group member and director of children’s
personal development at the National Children’s Bureau, Gill
Frances, said: “Teenage parents under 16 do not get enough money to
live on, which means that the benefits system holds them in a
vulnerable position. Under 16s should be able to claim the same
amount of money as other parents.”

The report sets out 11 key recommendations:
half of them focus on prevention, half on supporting teenage
parents. It calls on the government to offer greater support to
teenage parents in dealing with education, housing and

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and
Pensions said: “Under 16s are regarded as minors, so they are not
eligible for income support and other benefits, although they get
child benefit. We do not see people aged under 16 as responsible
enough to deal with the benefits system. But the government does
provide a Sure Start maternity grant which will rise to £500
next April. The grandparent has to apply for this and it’s only
available if they are on benefits themselves.”

Health minister Jacqui Smith said the
government would publish a detailed response to the IAG’s
recommendations next spring.

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