Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 15:39 UK

Single mother soldier DeBique 'lost hope in system'

Tilern DeBique
Tilern DeBique was disciplined after being late for parade

A single mother soldier has told a tribunal she "lost hope in the system" after being told the Army was no place for those without proper childcare.

The employment tribunal is deciding how much Tilern DeBique, 28, is owed for sexual and racial discrimination.

Cpl DeBique, who won her case against the MoD, was disciplined after not appearing on parade because she had to look after her daughter.

The MoD said personnel are responsible for ensuring "childcare arrangements".

Cpl DeBique said she was at her "wit's end" before leaving the forces.

The former corporal said she was expected to be available for duty "24/7, 365 days a year" and was told the Army was "unsuitable for a single mother who couldn't sort out her childcare arrangements".

The tribunal also heard that Cpl DeBique, who joined 10 Signal Regiment in March 2001, had expressed an interest in other military positions before leaving the Army in 2008, including two in Afghanistan.

The armed forces aim to achieve a working environment free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination
MoD spokesman

The judge who ruled on the MoD's appeal called it an unusual case, because Cpl DeBique was a Foreign and Commonwealth soldier serving in the British Army, as well as being a single mother.

Her daughter was initially cared for by her family on the Caribbean island of St Vincent. She then brought her child to England, and asked if a relative could come to the UK to help with childcare - but was told immigration rules did not allow it.

The corporal missed work when her child was ill, and was late for parade, resulting in disciplinary action.

Her commanding officer told Cpl DeBique she was expected to be available for duty at any time.

The MoD said Cpl DeBique was offered an alternative job, but left.

Welfare support

The tribunal criticised the Army for not helping to make childcare arrangements.

An MoD spokesman said: "The armed forces aim to achieve a working environment free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination.

"Serving personnel who are parents are responsible for ensuring they have childcare arrangements in place so that they can fulfil all of their Army duties.

"Commonwealth and Republic of Ireland citizens have access to the same levels of Army welfare support as their British counterparts."

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the military will be studying the case to see what they have to do better under the law with regard to single parents.

The Army will have to look very carefully at what they are asking single parents to do, she added.

The compensation hearing continues.

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