Teenage mothers offered full-time childcare - if they go back to school

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The Independent Online

Plans to provide full-time childcare to teenage mothers who return to school will be launched by the Government today.

Plans to provide full-time childcare to teenage mothers who return to school will be launched by the Government today.

A £3m, three-year pilot scheme will be announced in four areas with high teenage pregnancy rates. If it is judged a success in increasing the skills and employability of young mothers it could be extended nation-wide in 2004.

Two hundred teenagers - from Blackpool and the London boroughs of Greenwich, Dagenham and Barking - will be allowed to leave their youngsters with registered childminders, who will each have no more than three children in their care.

In return, the mothers will have to resume full-time education or go on a recognised training course.

The move follows government concern over the teenage pregnancy rates in the areas, which are the highest in Britain, and are twice as high as in Germany, three times more than France and six times more than Holland.

It also follows a report from Downing Street's social exclusion unit, which warned of the danger of young parents facing poverty. It urged them to "have the chance to complete their education'', but pointed out they faced a "range of barriers'', such as the cost and availability of childcare.

It found girls in care were in particular likely to become pregnant, with a quarter expecting a baby by the age of 16 and half within two years of leaving care. The scheme will be announced today by the Employment minister, Margaret Hodge. She said: "When teenagers do have children and where there is no family support, it is in the interests of both mother and child for the mother to stay in education and training.''

She said that 90 per cent of teenage mothers currently existed on benefits because they could not afford childcare or lacked the skills to find a job - "and they are more likely to stay on benefit for longer", she added. "We must change that."

She said of the new pilot projects: "Obviously where families support the teenagers there isn't that need for extra money, but we have been focusing on the most isolated cases. But if it works we will expand it.''

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