Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, has written to Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, regarding apprenticeships, and the support offered to applicants from low-income families.

An apprenticeship is as a paid job with training, which means that applicants can earn as they learn. However, because apprentices earn a wage, they are not eligible for certain forms of financial support:

  • Currently, apprentices are not eligible for student bursaries or child support, meaning that although the apprentice is still ‘learning’ they are not entitled to the same benefits as any other student. This means that, if applicants are struggling financially or on a low-income, an apprenticeship will not be an attractive or realistic prospect.
  • Moreover, as the Apprentice National Minimum Wage (£3.70 for under 19) is lower than the National Minimum Wage (£4.20 for under 18’s), it is clear that low-income apprentices will struggle to complete their training. This is compounded by the fact that apprentices do not receive student loans or discounted travel, and they are not eligible for student bank accounts.
  • Parents of apprenticeships also lose their Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits because an apprentice, despite attending classes and studying towards a vocational qualification, is no longer considered to be in education. This means that if the apprentice is still living with their parents/carer, then low-income families will not have the funds to support that child during the apprenticeship, and the apprentice will not be able to support themselves as the living costs are higher than the ANMW offers.

Because of these financial realities, the number of teenagers applying for an apprenticeship from low-income backgrounds has fallen, and is now relatively low. This prompted Giles’ letter of 12th July to the Chief Secretary, which set out that “we must address this situation, and we must do more to create an apprenticeships system that is truly open to young people from low-income backgrounds.”

Giles has, therefore, asked that the Government make changes so that the apprenticeship system is fairer for low-income applicants. This will involve making the parents of low-income apprentices eligible for Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits while their child undertakes an apprenticeship.

Giles has also asked that the Government consider extending the scope of Care to Learn, student financial support including the 16-19 Bursary Fund and the Childcare Grant to low-income apprentices. This will reduce the financial strain on low-income apprentices, while making these opportunities more attractive to them.

Giles said: “Apprenticeships are currently not a viable option for those coming from lower-income backgrounds, and I believe that we need to make a change so that the system is fairer and low-income applicants feel able to become apprentices.

“I have the support of local businesses and a number of other MPs, and by changing the system in this way we will do right by our hard-working apprentices.

You can read the letter below.


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