From today (25 October) lone parents with children aged seven and over will start to get help to look for work rather than stay on benefits - previously it was when their child was aged ten.
Lone parents whose child is aged seven or over will claim Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) if they are able to work, rather than Income Support. On JSA they will benefit from a comprehensive range of support including training opportunities, job application advice and other financial grants to help them return to work.
They will receive advice on childcare, benefits and part-time or family friendly working from specialist lone parent advisers at Jobcentre Plus. The Work Program is also being introduced to give flexible support to get people in jobs alongside other back-to-work measures including Work Clubs.
Those with a health condition or disability which limits their capability for work will be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller said:
"We know that work is the best route out of poverty. This is why lone parents with younger children will now be able to have access to help and support to look for work through Jobcentre Plus.
"Getting a good balance between work and family responsibilities is important for every parent. Jobcentre Plus advisers will actively support lone parents so that they can get that balance right too."
In other countries where active labor measures are in place, eligibility is also often limited to lone parents with a youngest child above a certain age. For example, conditionality in Australia begins when the child is six, in the Netherlands when the child is five, and in France and Germany when the child is three.
About the changes:
Lone parents with children of 12 or under will be able to specify school-hours only jobs without it affecting their benefits.
A lone parent's availability for work must take into account their childcare responsibilities.
A lone parent on JSA will not be expected to take up a job if appropriate childcare is not available.
Work Clubs provide unemployed people with a place to meet and exchange skills, find opportunities, make contacts, share experiences and receive support to help them in their return to work.
Jobcentre Plus staff will ensure that every lone parent is contacted before the changes affect them to give them enough time to claim another benefit or find paid work.
Some lone parents will continue to receive Income Support if:
1. They have a child in receipt of the middle or highest rate care component of Disability Living Allowance;
2. Receive Carer's Allowance, or;
3. Are Fostering.
International evidence indicates that, in the majority of cases, countries with higher lone parent employment rates have lower poverty rates for lone parent households.
A child of a lone parent that works part-time is over 2.5 times less likely to be living in poverty than a child of a lone parent who is not working. This increases to over 4 times less likely if the lone parent works full time.
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