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Lone Parents

Volume 408: debated on Tuesday 1 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the Government's plans to help lone parents back to work. [119482]

We have introduced a wide range of initiatives to help lone parents gain independence by moving into work.The New Deal for Lone Parents is delivering services tailored to meet the needs of individual lone parents and giving them the skills, support and confidence they need to move into work. By the end of March 2003, it had helped over 193,000 lone parents to find jobs.The combination of the child care component of our new Tax Credits and the extra places created through our National Childcare Strategy are making child care affordable and accessible for parents moving into work. Since April, Childcare Partnership Managers have been introduced into every Jobcentre Plus District to work with personal advisers and Local Authorities to ensure that jobseekers with children have access to information on child care provision in their area. Lone Parents can also benefit from payments of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit at pre-work levels for four weeks after starting work to help them through what can be a difficult transitional period.We announced a number of measures in Budget 2003 to help lone parents overcome barriers to work. Discovery Week pilots will increase the familiarity of lone parents with the help and support available to them. From 2004 we will also introduce a new mentoring service across the country that is tailored specifically for lone parents. This will be delivered alongside child care taster pilots which allow lone parents to test whether formal child care suits their needs.From April 2004, in 12 areas we will pilot a payment of £4 per week for 12 months on top of tax and benefits when the lone parent starts a job of more than 16 hours a week. This will be complemented, in eight pilot areas, by a weekly work search premium payment of £20 on top of benefits for lone parents who have been on income support for more than 12 months and are actively seeking work.We have introduced compulsory Work Focused Interviews for lone parents claiming Income Support to ensure that they are aware of the wide range of help they can access to move into work. Through our programmes we are giving lone parents more choices and more help than ever before to move off welfare and into work and this has helped reduce the number of lone parents dependent on Income Support by over 175,000 since May 1997.