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Income Support: Lone Parents

Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will exempt lone parents providing full-time home education for their children from the planned requirement that lone parents be actively seeking work to receive income support; (205382)

(2) what support will be available for lone parents providing full-time home education to their children when the requirement for such parents to be actively seeking work to receive income support comes into effect; and if he will make a statement.

Details of the Government's proposed changes to benefit conditionally for lone parents, together with a set of draft regulations, were presented to the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) on 7 May 2008. The Committee will shortly commence a public consultation exercise seeking views on the proposals from interested organisations before formally responding to the Secretary of State. After considering the SSAC report, the Government will respond on the arrangements for lone parents, including those who educate their children at home.

In the documentation provided to SSAC, the Government outlined their proposals on lone parents who educate their children at home. While recognising that lone parents can choose to do so, it is not the purpose of income support to fund them to educate their children at home. Therefore, the Government consider that they should be required to look for paid work when their youngest child reaches the relevant threshold age.

Lone parents who educate their children at home and who apply for jobseeker's allowance will need to fit in their home education activities around their obligations to look for work. Unlike lone parents who send their children to school, lone parents who choose to educate their children at home do not have to observe school hours, days or terms and may have greater flexibility to fit paid work around their children's education.

They may, however, need to find alternative care for their children when they undertake work related activities or take up a job. The draft regulations presented to SSAC also include an amendment to allow Jobcentre Plus advisers additional discretion so that a lone parent claiming or receiving jobseeker's allowance will not be penalised if they cannot access appropriate and affordable child care.