Benefit-related changes introduced for parents of one and two year olds

New benefit rules for parents of young children come in today.

Mother helping child with homework

 

Tighter benefits rules have been introduced from today for parents of one and two year olds as the Government looks to fill labour shortages.

To avoid benefits sanctions, parents of children aged two will have to meet with a work coach every month instead of every three months to prepare themselves for returning to work. Parents of children who are one will have to have meetings with their work coach every three months instead of every six months. Claimants will be told of the change at their next scheduled appointment with their work coach.

The Government will bring in changes to the rules for the main carers of three year olds in the autumn, meaning they will have to work or be available to work up to 30 hours a week unless their circumstances prevent them, for instance, childcare is not available. This is almost double the current 16-hour rule. Charities and academics criticised the move as “unconscionable” when it was first announced, saying it “devalues unpaid care” and will disproportionately affect single mothers.

The Government recently increased the percentage of childcare parents can claim back through Universal Credit to 85%. Upfront childcare fees are also being covered.

It says the childcare support and work coaches will provide extra help for parents to find jobs, including information on local childcare provision, and that work is the main route out of poverty.

Minister for Employment, Guy Opperman MP, said: “Helping parents return to work is part of the Government’s continued efforts to drive down economic inactivity and get Britain working as we grow our economy.”

The new policy comes amid concerns about childcare provision in England. Although the Government’s spring budget earmarked £4.2bn for its free childcare expansion in 2025-26, which is when the proposed set-up would be fully in place, as well as £240m to boost funding for its existing schemes in 2023-24, there are concerns that it falls short of the cost providers are paying for places, particularly when it comes to three and four year olds.

An analysis by the Women’s Budget Group has found that £9.4bn is needed for the expansion and £1.8bn is needed for the existing schemes. Providers are worried that increasing demand without covering the full cost of provision of free places could cause more nurseries to close, reducing the availability of places for many.  Already there has been an increase in childcare closures over the last year and almost nine in ten councils in England are concerned that there will be a significant rise in nursery closures this year, according to a survey by the Local Government Association.

 

 



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