Skip to main content

Income Support: Lone Parents

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 16 July, Official Report, columns 474-5W, on income support: lone parents, how many and what proportion of the 8,950 customer-facing staff have received specific training on the changes to the eligibility rules for income support affecting lone parents coming into effect in November 2008; and if he will make a statement. (226326)

A holding replay was sent on Monday 13 October 2008.

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie 20 October 2008:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question pursuant to the Answer of 16 July, Official Report, columns 474-5W, on income support: lone parents asking how many and what proportion of the 8,950 customer-facing staff have received specific training on the changes to the eligibility rules for income support affecting lone parents coming into effect in November 2008. This is something that falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

We have made good progress in the last few months communicating to our customer-facing staff the changes that will be taking place and how these fit into the Government's welfare reform and child poverty agendas.

Our training delivery started on 13 October and we have in place arrangements to deliver over 350 learning events that would equate to 4,371 of our customer-facing staff being trained before the 'go live' date of 24 November. We have a phased rollout of training planned in line with the expected increase in volume of work.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 9 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1685W, on lone parents: income support, what progress has been made in developing a communication strategy to support the changes to the eligibility rules for income support affecting lone parents coming into effect in (a) 2008, (b) 2009 and (c) 2010; and if he will make a statement. (226327)

A holding reply was sent on 13 October 2008.

A communication strategy to support the changes to the eligibility rules for income support affecting lone parents has been agreed by DWP Communications and policy officials and is currently being implemented.

The strategy has a very clear focus on the need for timely and accurate communications to (1) customers affected by the changes, (2) Jobcentre Plus staff in roles impacted by the changes, and (3) external stakeholders involved in giving accurate advice to customers. We have ensured that all communications activities are properly co-ordinated, and fit with messages about the Government's wider agenda for increasing the number of people in paid work and reducing child poverty.

Key objectives of the communications strategy are to ensure that the following audiences receive co-ordinated, timely and tailored messages, as follows:

Existing lone parent customers and those making new or repeat claims to income support—understand the changes and how they will be affected.

Advisers working with customers—know how the changes will impact on them and their lone parent customers.

Stakeholders external to Jobcentre Plus—are clear on these changes and the effect they will have upon them and their customers.

To meet these objectives the strategy includes the following:

Mailshots sent direct to specific lone parent customers, which outline the effect that the changes may have on them, including new requirements for quarterly attendance at work-focused interviews and how their claim to disability premium could be affected (where relevant).

A further mailshot in November 2008 to lone parents affected, confirming that the changes have been approved by Parliament. This will be supported by local mailshots to offer voluntary interviews six weeks prior to the end of the lone parents' income support.

Providing lone parent customers with detail information factsheets that clearly outline the changes for them and the action they may need to take with the support of their adviser.

A leaflet and poster campaign to explain in visual format the steps each lone parent will take as the changes impact them.

Local ‘Options and Choices' events for lone parents that explain the changes and offer advice and guidance in preparing for work (these have been in place since April 2008).

Publication of details of the changes on both the DWP and Jobcentre Plus Internet sites.

A range of products available to Jobcentre Plus staff to ensure that they are able to deliver the correct messages to customers including briefings, desk aids, presentations, key messages, links to guidance and supporting articles in internal publications. This also includes road shows delivered to senior managers to ensure understanding of the changes.

Numerous presentations to key external stakeholders and close engagement with external lone parent voluntary groups.

The same approach is proposed for introduction of Phase 2 of the changes in 2009 and Phase 3 in 2010. However, in spring 2009 we will evaluate the Phase 1 communications and feed these findings into communication plans for the next phases.