Over half (59 per cent) of poor children live in a household where at least one adult works. The majority of European funded and regeneration programmes support the unemployed and economically inactive people on welfare benefits. Potential second earners within a family are often hidden from these programmes as they are not necessarily benefit claimants and do not traditionally access Jobcentre Plus services. Many non-working parents living in in-work poverty are not aware of the training and employment support provision in their area.
Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil have the highest rates of deprivation in Wales. In March 2010, Blaenau Gwent had the highest unemployment rate (16.4 per cent), followed by Merthyr Tydfil (13.7 per cent). The combined effect of low skills and a high rate of worklessness means that many children in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil experience the effects of poverty everyday.
A key barrier for non-working parents in low-income families in Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil is accessing training and employment including
There are some non-working parents who are unaware of services provided by Jobcentre Plus, such as New Deal for Partners, and there are those who are wary of Jobcentre Plus advisers.
School Gates Employment Support Project targets second potential earners with primary school children in low-income families. Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil were chosen to pilot this project as they represent the two local authorities with the highest level of children in families dependent on out-of-work benefits in Wales.
The project delivers a package of advice, guidance and support alongside informal training and childcare provision. Childcare is provided via creches delivered in and around schools and, where creches are not appropriate, childcare places are purchased in Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales registered childcare provision. Transport to training and other activities is provided when needed.
School Gates engages with parents in and around their children’s primary school. Each participating school receives a £1,000 bursary for their commitment in supporting the initiative and as a contribution towards the school running costs. Blaenau Gwent works with 24 primary schools (6 schools for 5 weeks) and Merthyr Tydfil with 8 schools (2 schools per half term) from May 2010 to March 2011.
Engagement activities include coffee mornings and workshop sessions on confidence building, motivation and goal setting. Working in partnership with local training and employment support organisations, the School Gates delivery team provides flexible and relevant training to non-working parents.
Parents are helped in looking for work, writing CVs, completing job applications, finding volunteering or work placements, enhancing their interviewing skills and setting up a business. They also have access to debt counselling, money management advice and parenting support.
With a Jobcentre Plus adviser as part of the delivery team, parents are able to access weekly job vacancy updates easily and have their better-off calculations done quickly. Appointments are made to suit the parents’ needs.
A discretionary fund of up to £500 is available for non-working parents to address any additional barriers that they may face when entering employment, self-employment, volunteering opportunities or further/higher education. This may include purchasing childcare places, clothing, equipment for the job/business, and subsidising course fees.
In five months of delivering School Gates in the two local authorities in Wales, there were a total of 326 parents engaged in the programme, of which
As the support to parents was tailored to suit the needs of their personal and family circumstances, the barriers to gaining new skills, seeking employment opportunities and starting work were removed. School Gates has developed a credible reputation with parents, schools and partner organisations in providing much needed support for second potential earners in low-income families to prepare, seek and find work.
The wider benefits include enhanced partnership working and a new level of understanding between Jobcentre Plus, employment agencies, training providers and schools. Participating schools found that parents became more involved in school activities and helped in PTAs and after-school clubs.
Employability Manager, Welsh Assembly Government
Telephone: 01443 663990