Budget `97: Opportunity set to knock

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The Independent Online
Ianto Roberts, 17, of Hackney, north London.


Income: pounds 38.90 a week

Ianto is trying to make something of his life, but successive governments seem to have tried their best to prevent him. It looks like this Budget will finally give him a helping hand.

Ianto, who left school when he was 13, got himself an NVQ in Information Technology this year and hopes to get around eight GCSEs and then go on to do A levels. He wants to be a police officer or fire-fighter. The Welfare to Work legislation, announced in the Budget, not only caters to those needing vocational qualifications, but will also help those trying to do more academic courses, like Ianto.

He was voluntarily in the care of social services throughout his teens and is currently in Hackney's Leaving Care project. This means spending a year in a small house with three other young people.

He pays for food and necessities out of the weekly pounds 38.90 Jobseekers Allowance and he pays pounds 6 a week towards the rent, with the rest paid through Housing Benefit.

He smokes around 40 cigarettes a week (a tax increase of 28p) and doesn't drink.

One of the main difficulties for the future has been that to claim benefit, he cannot study for more than 16 hours a week, but this was a rule the Chancellor said would be "relaxed".

"If someone like Ianto can't make it, then what hope is there for the rest?" said his mother.