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Lone Parent Obligations

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

The Government are committed to eradicating child poverty by 2020 and helping individuals reach their full potential by helping those who can to move from welfare to paid work. We set out our intentions in the command paper “Ready for Work: Full Employment in our Generation” published in December 2007.

Helping more lone parents into work is vital if the Government are to eradicate child poverty by 2020. Paid work for those who can, is the most sustainable route out of poverty. The Government are committed to the principle that once children are older, lone parents who are able to do so and are claiming income support should be expected to look for paid work. In return, the Government have increased the level of assistance and support that they provide to help lone parents move into, and progress in, paid work.

Since 1997 considerable progress has been made in increasing the lone parent employment rate to 56.3 per cent. but we still face major challenges to eradicate child poverty. Over half—58 per cent.—of children in non-working lone parent families live in poverty, compared with 19 per cent. of children of lone parents working part-time and 7 per cent. of those working full-time.

The draft Social Security (Lone Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008 are intended to help lone parents move into paid employment. From 2010, lone parents with a youngest child aged seven or over will no longer be entitled to income support solely on the grounds of being a lone parent. Instead, those able to take up paid employment may claim jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and those with a disability or health condition may claim employment and support allowance (ESA). The draft regulations recognise that some lone parents face circumstances that need special consideration and provide additional flexibilities to accommodate their individual needs.

The draft Social Security (Lone Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008 were referred to the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) on 7 May 2008 for consultation in accordance with section 172(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. I have noted the Committee’s concerns and carefully considered their views. I consider there are strong safeguards in the proposed regulations and Jobcentre Plus operations to protect the most vulnerable lone parents. I have also reconsidered the timetable for ending income support for existing lone parent customers. The draft regulations have been amended to accommodate changes so that roll out for lone parents with older children can better inform delivery for subsequent customer groups.

I am now announcing my intention to lay these regulations in draft before Parliament. These regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure.