This month the Government launched its consultation on changes to Care to Learn.

When Care to Learn works it is an amazing thing.  It basically pays the childcare (up to £160 a week) for young parents under 20 while they are in education. For young parents who aren't lucky enough to have their mum on hand just round the corner to look after their little cherub (for which I will be eternally grateful) Care to Learn is often the only way that young mums can afford to go back to college and gain much needed qualifications.

The Government have put forward a few proposals such as means testing, letting schools/colleges decide on eligibility, and reducing the amount they will pay, which will introduce a significant level of uncertainty for those young parents wanting to go to college. I've seen young parents' faces as universities try to tell them what they will be entitled to. Basically no one knows till you get there. How can you be expected to plan your life around that? Furthermore, basing eligibility on parents' or partner's incomes ignores the fact that the young parent is unlikely to have any spare money for childcare at this time in their life if not earning themselves.

The Governments preferred option is to reduce the age limit to under 19. While it is understandable that a 19 year old parent may sound like they need less support, it was acknowledged in 2006 (when C2L was extended to 19 year olds) that the most vulnerable 16 and 17 year old parents were often 19 by the time they were ready to engage in formal education. It takes time to get sorted and settled. College courses only start once a year. They are often only full time. The key to improving opportunities for young parents is more flexibility, not less. The Governments preferred proposal ignores the way that young parents balance education and parenting and life, it ignores the need for reassurance and financial stability, and it ignores everything we know about what improves lives for young parents and their children.

The Government have spent years trying to promote Care to Learn, to ensure that young parents are able to take up educational opportunities. Connexions workers often offered support with form filling-in and finding suitable child care places. Evaluations showed that when it did work C2L was a lifeline to those young parents suggesting that, if anything, the age should be extended further to allow more young parents whose education was interrupted to return to college at a time that is right to them.

The short sightedness and backwards approach of the preferred proposal to reduce the age limit seems to have gone unnoticed by most campaign groups. Compared to the uproar about Child Support changes the Care to Learn consultation has sat quietly on the DfE website without any attention or concern.

So I guess that means it's up to us.....

This is what I'm asking:

If you were or are a young parent please complete this quick survey - I'm hoping for at least 100 responses to analyse!
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2YYVGF2
If you have any additional comments, or a nice story to tell me, please add them below or email me prymface@yahoo.co.uk

Please please spread the word! RT my tweets, share my facebook status and email this link to anyone who may be interested!

The deadline for the DfE response is 28th October


Free childcare isn't everything - Young parents often have complex lives that just don't fit into the structures that the education system expects us to. But taking away free childcare just puts up another barrier, another unknown, another risk that will impact on the life of that young parent, and, most importantly, the lives of their children too.