Chancellor gives boost to childcare and early years services

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

Last week’s budget also included news that the
Children’s Fund is to continue until 2008. This is to allow
“a smooth transition to new Children’s Trusts, which
will be focused on preventative work and developed and delivered
with the full engagement of the voluntary sector” said the
budget report.

The extra early years 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.

The government is proposing to combine benefits for under-18s
with Connexions, and is  proposing to allow Connexions personal
advisors to call on a contingency fund to make one off payments to
young people to help them into jobs.

It was also announced in the budget that extended schools are to
be piloted in an extra four areas. Education secretary Charles
Clarke later said said that “in due course” he would be
announcing an expansion of childcare places and family support
services as a result of the budget.

There is to be a massive 30 per cent cut in jobs at the
Department for Educational and Skills London headquarters.

New measures are to be piloted to encourage non-working parents
in couple families into employment even where the other partner is
working. The rules are also changing for the partners of Job
Seekers Allowance claimants.

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

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