Delay benefits changes for single parents, says Gingerbread
The Government should delay plans to cut benefits for jobless single parents of children over five until the Universal Credit is brought in, says single parent charity Gingerbread.
From today Jobcentre Plus will start to inform single parents not in paid work, whose youngest child is age five or six, that they will be required to seek employment or face potential cuts to their benefits. The aim is to encourage single parents into work and out of poverty, but Gingerbread says that, at a time when unemployment figures are at a 17 year high, this will put unfair and unrealistic pressure on thousands of families – particularly, it says, when they will only be told at very short notice.
It wants to see the plans delayed until 2013 when people on part-time jobs will have access to a newly announced £300m pot of money for childcare support.
Gingerbread is also concerned that the Welfare Reform Bill proposes to extend further the numbers of single parents required to seek work. If the Bill is passed unchanged then from early next year single parents whose youngest child is five or over will no longer be entitled to claim income support (IS), but will be required to claim job seeker’s allowance (JSA). Single parents will then face tougher conditionality and payment sanctions if they fail to demonstrate that they are actively seeking and available for work.
When previous switchovers from IS to JSA have taken place for single parents, says Gingerbread, parents have been given plenty of advance notice, but in this case, it states, there would be virtually no gap between the legislation being passed and implementation, giving affected single parents very little time to prepare.
Chief Executive of Gingerbread Fiona Weir said: “The proposed timing of this change is disastrous and will plunge thousands of single parents into a stagnant job market with little prospect of finding work that fits around their caring responsibilities. In previous years single parents have been given plenty of notice of these changes and time to prepare, but the Government is rushing this legislation through and will catch single parents unawares. It makes much more sense to delay the change until 2013 when newly-announced childcare support will be available for part-time jobs, which will help single parents of young children balance work and parenting.”
“Forcing an extra 100,000 single parents to look for work will not reduce the benefit bill but will leave many more single parents languishing on jobseeker’s allowance. The Welfare Reform Bill provides an opportunity to delay these proposed reforms and avoid putting thousands of families through a highly stressful and wasteful administrative process, whilst giving them the fair chance they deserve to prepare for work and access childcare support when they find a job.”