Young parents 'need to be lifted from poverty'

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TEENAGE mothers need housing, increases in benefit and free child care so they can continue their education or find work to lift them out of poverty, according to a report by the Children's Society, writes Rosie Waterhouse.

Researchers worked with a group of about 12 young mothers, most of whom were under 18, over several months at the charity's St Gabriel's family centre in Brighton, Sussex.

None of the women became pregnant in order to get housed. The report recommends giving them a choice of housing, including accommodation for up to 12 months with support from social services to teach them skills for independent living.

The study found those wanting to work could not because few employers offered flexible hours and because of a lack of affordable child care. Those who wanted education or training faced similar problems.

The report, A Fit State for Motherhood?, says: 'Without encouragement and realistic support - in the form of childcare provision - a young mother and her child can be condemned to a life of poverty and unfulfilled potential.'

The authors, Caroline Norman and Sheila Wilks, point out that it costs the same for a teenager to bring up a child as older parents but benefit levels do not reflect this. Mothers under the age of 16 may receive as little as pounds 16 a week. They said teenage parenthood is a reality of modern life that society needs to respond to constructively.