New Deal targets literacy in drive to improve skills of the workforce

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Indy Politics

A new deal to improve literacy among the unemployed has been launched in an attempt to improve the level of skills within the workforce.

All Jobcentres will include advisers on education and training to help direct low-skilled people to courses to improve their reading and writing ability.

The New Deal for Skills will help all unemployed people obtain qualifications equivalent to five GCSEs and make them capable of writing a letter, filling in a job application and communicating clearly. The help will also be available to single mothers, half of whom have no qualifications, and those claiming incapacity benefit.

The Government is also changing the rules to help children from low-income backgrounds to finish courses without seeing their benefits cut if they are over 19.

The changes to the rules mean that if the teenagers start a course or an unpaid training programme at 19, their families will still receive child benefit, income support and child tax credit while they are finishing it.

The changes follow a review of financial support for 16- to 19-year-olds which found that young people from low-income homes "may be forced to leave courses before achieving their qualification because of the pressure on the family finances of losing financial support".

The new rules will mean child benefit and child tax credit help will no longer end on a teenager's 19th birthday if they are training.

Organisations representing single mothers welcomed Mr Brown's announcement and the promise of more money for Sure Start programmes for pre-school children and childcare.

Gordon Brown announced an extra £669m by 2007-08 to establish children's centres in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in England and to support 100,000 new childcare places.

Kate Green, director of the charity One Parent Families, said she welcomed the "goal to have a children's centre in every community". But she said "the speed of the roll-out is not fast enough to meet the Government's lone-parent employment target".