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Jobseeker’s Allowance: Lone Parents

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the impact on lone parent families of the sanctioning and hardship regime applicable to jobseeker’s allowance claimants. (187030)

There are already a number of lone parents claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) rather than income support who are able to meet the conditions for receipt of JSA and make use of the help available to get back to work.

We believe the JSA framework is sufficiently flexible to ensure that sanctions will only apply where absolutely necessary and we will ensure that Jobcentre Plus advisers use that flexibility to support lone parents as they make the transition to JSA.

At the start of their claim, lone parents will establish a jobseeker’s agreement setting out what they will do to get work tailored to their circumstances. Any restrictions agreed between the jobseeker and their adviser on availability and actively seeking work will be included in the jobseeker’s agreement. Advisers will also ensure claimants are treated sympathetically when they experience difficult circumstances, for example, lone parents who claim benefit for the first time because of a break-up of a relationship or bereavement.

In “Ready for work: full employment in our generation” we announced that we would amend regulations to increase Jobcentre Plus adviser discretion so that a lone parent who is claiming jobseeker’s allowance will not be penalised if they leave a job, or fail to take up a job, because appropriate affordable child care is not available. We will also ensure that at least one attempt is made to contact all parents by telephone it they do not attend their fortnightly jobsearch review. If contact is not made by the customer, a letter will be sent to their home address telling them that if they do not contact Jobcentre Plus within five working days their entitlement to benefit will end or a sanction will be imposed.

We are currently reviewing the hardship regime as it applies to parents in receipt of JSA to ensure that it is appropriate for them and supports the Government’s objectives to reduce child poverty.