The Government has announced changes to benefit rules for parents of children over three.
The Government has announced that from today parents of children over three who are on Universal Credit will have to seek up to 30 hours of work a week or risk facing benefits sanctions.
Parents of three to 12-year-olds will have to work with a work coach and be available to work or be available to work up to 30 hours a week. If they don’t they could be sanctioned. Before today, they had to be available for up to 16 hours a week so the change represents nearly a doubling in hours.
The Department for Work and Pensions says commitments will be tailored to parents’ personal circumstances, including the availability of childcare, although there are concerns over how this will be interpreted. Job Centre Pluses will help with updating CVs or developing skills through courses and workshops.
The move comes after the UK Government announced additional childcare support through Universal Credit, including help with up-front and increased costs of up to £951 a month for one child and £1,630 for two or more children. It has also announced a phased expansion of subsidised childcare, but childcare providers are worried that the funding is not there, particularly for three and four year olds, for many to be able to offer it.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP said: “We are pulling down barriers that stop parents working and fulfilling their potential, because we know full-time work not only benefits mum and dad but the whole family too.”
The Government says households are at least £6,000 a year better off in full-time work than out of work on benefits, but many of those on Universal Credit and currently struggling with the cost of living crisis to look after their families are in low-paid work.
Those impacted will see updates to their expected Work-Related Activity which includes searching and applying for jobs, updating CVs, and developing transferable skills through workshops. All activity is designed to prepare parents to increase their likelihood of getting a job or increasing their hours.
Campaigners argue that the threat of sanctions does little to help jobseekers find the right sustainable work to get out of poverty. Single parent charity Gingerbread stated yesterday in response to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Single Parent Families: “Benefit sanctions should be scrapped. They don’t work, and we are concerned about the impact sanctions will have on single parents who are often already in a financially precarious position.”
Gingerbread is also calling on the Government to scrap the two-child limit on tax credits and Universal Credit, to remove the benefit cap and to raise benefit levels. New research from the Joseph Rowntree published this week shows single parents are twice as likely to experience destitution than coupled counterparts or those without children and that 75% of those experiencing destitution are on Universal Credit.
In the summer the Government announced tighter benefits rules for parents of one and two year olds. To avoid benefits sanctions, parents of children aged two now 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 have to have meetings with their work coach every three months instead of every six months.