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Learning curve

Despite the recent declaration from the minister for women and equality The Minister of Women was a ministerial position in the United Kingdom. List of Ministers for Women and Equality now Minister for Women

Junior Minister Cabinet Minister
1997-98 Joan Ruddock Harriet Harman
1998-01 Tessa Jowell Baroness Jay
, Patricia Hewitt Patricia Hope Hewitt (born 2 December 1948) is a British politician. She is the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Leicester West and the former Secretary of State for Health. , that "New Labour had been wrong to promote the view that all women ... should get out and get jobs," several government initiatives have been announced designed to help more unemployed lone parents go to college or work. Not surprisingly, most focus on providing free childcare.

A major reason parents stay at home, particularly young parents under 19, is because they cannot afford the high cost of childcare. According to government statistics, of the 50,000 teenage parents in England and Wales England and Wales are both constituent countries of the United Kingdom, that together share a single legal system: English law. Legislatively, England and Wales are treated as a single unit (see State (law)) for the conflict of laws.  only 30% are in work or education. While many may want to devote their time to bringing up their young children during those important early years, others, like 19-year-old Karla Harvey, wish to combine parenthood with studying and a part-time job.

Harvey, who has a two-year-old son, Taiylor, is studying health and social care one day a week and works shifts in a care home for people with mental health and behavioural problems. She says she is able to go to college and hold down a job that complements her studies only because she has access to free childcare.

Harvey is one of 109 teenage parents to receive free childcare under a project being piloted in four areas of England - north-east Lincolnshire, Blackpool, and the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham Barking and Dagenham (bär'kĭng ən dăg`nəm, bô'–), outer borough (1991 pop. 139,900) of Greater London, SE England.  and Greenwich - all of which have high teenage pregnancy teenage pregnancy Adolescent pregnancy, teen pregnancy Social medicine Pregnancy by a ♀, age 13 to 19; TP is usually understood to occur in a ♀ who has not completed her core education–secondary school, has few or no marketable skills, is  rates and low participation in education.

The Teen Parent Project is run by the National Childminding Association (NCMA NCMA National Contract Management Association
NCMA National Center for Missing Adults
NCMA National Concrete Masonry Association
NCMA National Childminding Association
NCMA North Carolina Museum of Art
NCMA National Catalog Managers Association
) with funding from the Department for Education and Skills The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) was a United Kingdom government department between 2001 and 2007. It was responsible for the education system and children's services in England. On 28 June 2007 the department was split in two by Gordon Brown.  (DfES) and the European Social Fund The European Social Fund (ESF) is one of the four European Structural Funds that provide grants to support economic development within the European Union. The ESF is the oldest one. It was created by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and became operational in 1960. . NCMA employs a network coordinator in each area who sets up and supports a network of local childminders; matches them with teenage parents who require free childcare; and pays their fees.

For Harvey, who lives just outside Grimsby, Lincolnshire, her network childminder, Yvonne Crofts, has proved invaluable. As well as looking after Taiylor weekdays, evenings and weekends depending on his mum's shift pattern, Crofts - who also looks after two other children - often picks Harvey up from work and takes them both home. "She's so flexible. I've even phoned her two hours before I need to extend my shift and she's been fine."

Victoria Austin, north-east Lincolnshire network coordinator, says before the Teen Parent project was set up 15 months ago the only free childcare was a creche at the young mums' unit for GCSE GCSE
1. (in Britain) General Certificate of Secondary Education; an examination in specified subjects which replaced the GCE O level and CSE

2. Informal a pass in a GCSE examination

Noun 1.
 or A-level students. "About 24 people took up these places, but as about 30 teenagers a month continue with their pregnancies we know that there is a much greater need."

Austin publicised the project on local radio, at freshers' fairs and by talking to local authority teenage pregnancy coordinators, reintegration reintegration /re·in·te·gra·tion/ (-in-te-gra´shun)
1. biological integration after a state of disruption.

2. restoration of harmonious mental function after disintegration of the personality in mental illness.
 officers and the Connexions service for 14 to 19-year-olds. She has been contacted by 60 young parents, of whom 70% have been matched with one of 25 network childminders she has recruited.

Gill Haynes, NCMA chief executive, says the mark of the project's success is continued funding from the DfES for a further 15 months to cover the network's running costs.

The childminding fees, however, will be paid out of the new DfES childcare scheme Care to Learn? which offers parents aged 16-19 throughout England £5,000 a year to cover childcare costs. But this pot of funding is limited to education or training.

Haynes hopes that Connexions and local authority Early Years Partnerships will earmark earmark

taking a piece out of the edge or center of the ear with a punch as an identification mark. The shape of the mark may be registerable under local legislation.
 extra money to pay for the childcare costs of working teenage parents.

But in Grimsby, Austin fully expects that clients wanting to start work will have to claim childcare tax credit and pay at least 30% of the costs of childcare.

She argues, however, that the impact may be far from negative. "If their only option is low-paid work, but they decide to go back into education instead because free childcare is offered, that must be a good thing."

Harvey, however, says she will be "devastated dev·as·tate  
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.

2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark.
".

"I'll probably have to give up work and go to college full time even though I really enjoy my job and it's good practical experience," she says. But she adds: "I suppose I'll complete my studies quicker."

Learning curve

Details on setting up a childminding network to support teen parents at www.ncma.org.uk More on Care to Learn? at www.dfes.gov.uk/caretolearn
Copyright 2003 guardian.co.uk
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Author:guardian.co.uk
Publication:guardian.co.uk
Date:Oct 29, 2003
Words:715
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