Health chiefs to give child care groups pounds 100,000

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The Independent Online
SINGLE mothers are to be given help in caring for their children in a move by the Department of Health to fund play groups. It will announce next week that more than pounds 100,000 will be provided to 'pump prime' child care groups with staffing, accommodation, and equipment.

The aim is to encourage more voluntary action by groups of parents, to enable more mothers to go to work. Although the sums allocated are relatively small, ministers believe it will be a vote winner.

It will be coupled with other child care initiatives by the department, including guidance to parents on how to cope with illnesses and behavioural problems by their children. Leaflets on child care are to be issued through doctors' surgeries and other agencies.

In a separate move, the Government's drive towards deregulation will include ending rules on child care covering groups such as Girl Guides and Scouts.

The Department of Employment is also providing pounds 45m over three years to help set up 'out-of-school' childcare facilities, assisting children whose parents are out at work when school finishes or during holiday breaks. It is being run by training and enterprise councils (Tecs).

The measures are part of a policy shift towards helping women with families to go to work, began by Gillian Shephard, when Secretary of State for Employment, and continued by her successor, David Hunt. They are being directed by Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, who has been appointed by John Major as the co-ordinating minister for the family.