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Lone Parents

Volume 470: debated on Monday 7 January 2008

11. What recent steps the Department has taken to support lone parents in finding work; and what plans he has for further assistance. (175876)

The new deal for lone parents has supported more than 500,000 people into work.

Our recent document “Ready for Work” sets out how we will expect more lone parents with school age children actively to find work, along with a package of measures to provide lone parents with the skills, confidence and financial support to find and stay in work.

I thank the Minister for that reply. The new deal plus pilot project for lone parents in Cardiff and the Vale has been successful in not only getting lone parents into work but sustaining them there. One of the key elements has been benefits such as the £300 in-work benefit, which can help lone parents to stay in a job and assist with, for example, child care, which is many working parents’ nightmare. What does my hon. Friend propose to do to extend that sort of benefit more universally?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. The number of lone parents who claim in her constituency has fallen by 39 per cent. since 1997 compared with a national drop of 25 per cent. I therefore give due credit to those who work on the matter locally for her constituents.

Our plans for our next steps are to roll out nationally the in-work credit from April. We are considering the way in which we extend the right to flexible working for parents of older children. The human resource director of Sainsbury’s, Imelda Walsh, has undertaken that review. We are also considering much more closely earlier skills assessment of lone parents—when they come on to income support—regardless of whether they receive jobseeker’s allowance or income support. The vacuum in their skills and basic education often inhibits lone parents. Again, we are providing support on several different fronts, but, as I said earlier, from next autumn parents whose youngest child is 12 will be expected to move on to jobseeker’s allowance. That is right because it is a something-for-something approach to our welfare system and the right mixture of rights and responsibilities.