Parents missing out on pounds 40 benefit

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Parents on benefit could be missing out on pounds 40 a week if their children opt out of education and training, David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education said yesterday. He said his message had nothing to do with today's vote in the Commons on benefit for lone parents.

But rebellious Labour MPs will now be aware that single parents with 16- and 17-year-olds could make up some of the benefit cut by persuading their children to stay in education and training.

Mr Blunkett described the 200,000 16- and 17-year-olds who leave school either for the dole or dead-end jobs as "the overlooked generation". He was speaking at the start of a government campaign to stop children dropping out of education.

He said: "Many families don't seem to be aware that if youngsters are not in a job or in education, they are losing out to the tune of up to pounds 40 a week in benefit to which they are entitled for that dependent child."

Mr Blunkett outlined a number of policies either planned or already in place to stop young people dropping out of education. Around 80,000 16- and 17-year-olds are out of work and a further 120,000 are in low-paid jobs in which they receive no training.

The Teaching and Higher Education Bill at present before Parliament gives young people the right to one day's paid study leave a week to improve their qualifications.

Ministers are also introducing a new single school leaving date for 16- year-olds at the end of June, to make sure that no pupil leaves before they they have had a chance to sit GCSE exams. At present 50,000 pupils leave schools without a single GCSE. There will be a new "Learning Card", spelling out young people's entitlement to education post-16.

The careers service will be asked to target those most likely to drop out and there will be another pounds 10m to fund modern apprenticeships.