Government pledges £5 million to help unemployed parents

The government has announced a £5 million scheme to provide childcare all year round in schools.

The measure is part of a package to encourage unemployed parents to go back to work.

Work and pensions secretary, Andrew Smith, unveiled the scheme, which will pilot in schools in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and the London boroughs of Haringey and Lewisham.

The selected schools will provide childcare in term time and during school holidays and the pilot schemes will also work with job centres to give lone parents extra help finding employment.

Mr Smith told a TUC/Daycare Trust conference in London on Monday: “My aim is that every parent who wants to work should be able to have access to affordable childcare when they need it.

“By making better use of school facilities we can start to make this a reality.”

A scheme providing a week’s free childcare to unemployed parents if they get a job will also be piloted in the three areas, Mr Smith announced.

Under the scheme, parents could use individual days to try out different childcare options in advance of taking up a job, or to go on training days to boost their chances of finding work.

Around 1,200 families are expected to benefit over the next two years from the initial pilot schemes, which could then be rolled out nationwide.

The department is in talks with the Scottish executive and Welsh assembly to identify areas where similar pilots could be carried out.