Certain benefits are not available to people over 18 studying for more than 16 hours a week – although the limit for those on a traineeship is 30 hours a week, after it was raised in 2014 – which could mean taking an apprenticeship puts a stop on welfare payments.
Conservative MP Lucy Allan asked MPs MPs on the government’s education select committee about barriers to apprenticeships and raised the issue of looked after children who lose their housing benefit if they became apprentices, as part of the committee’s inquiry into the quality of apprenticeships and skills training.
She said: “I think it’s outrageous if it means children in care can’t do apprenticeships. We just can’t have a system that prejudices a particular group who are most in need. It’s crazy.”
Lady Andrée Deane-Barron, group education and skills director at the YMCA said: “Some of our families decide their young person can’t attend a study programme, apprenticeship or traineeship because they’re going to lose some of their benefits.
I think it’s outrageous if it means children in care can’t do apprenticeships. We just can’t have a system that prejudices a particular group who are most in need. It’s crazy.
“If the young person has children themselves they might lose some of their child benefits too. When I have spoken to the minister she has said ‘that is a law that is not up for negotiation’ so we have tended to stop bashing against it, but it is a very real barrier.”
Lady Andrée said support with travel costs would be a big help for apprentices in rural areas, in particular: “They are often massive areas of disadvantage. We find particularly with pre-apprenticeship programmes that it is the face-to-face delivery that is effective and impacts on their achievement. So to not be able to attend those sessions, even if they have the appropriate technology, tends not to give the motivation for those types of learners.”
The chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Mark Dawe, said the issue was deeper than just affording travel to and from an apprentice job. “Many of the individuals have to choose between paying for the bus or eating at lunchtime and they have got childcare issues or other issues,” he said.