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Employment Schemes

Volume 488: debated on Friday 6 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what back to work support will be offered to lone parents or partners of benefit claimants with children aged (a) nought to two, (b) three to six and (c) over six years old who are not part of the progression to work pathfinders. (255130)

One of the core recommendations from the Gregg Review of conditionality was the creation of a new ‘Progression to Work’ group. Gregg recommends that this new approach should be for those people who may not be ready to work immediately, but who with the right mix of support and encouragement could get back into employment. This model would apply to employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants (other than those in the ESA support group) and lone parents and partners of children aged one to six. The ‘Progression to Work’ pathfinders have been created as a result of this recommendation.

The claimants involved in the ‘Progression to Work’ group will be required to actively engage with their adviser on an ongoing basis to consider, discuss and agree an action plan comprising activities they think will improve their prospects of moving back into work. They must then undertake these agreed activities as part of their own journey towards employment following directions from advisers where these are strictly necessary. This will be underpinned with recourse to sanctions for those failing to engage with support without good cause. However, although still in the ‘Progression to Work’ group, lone parents and partners with children aged one and two will be encouraged, rather than required, to undertake work-related activity and will not be sanctioned for refusing to undertake work-related activity.

This pathfinder will cover approximately 10 to 15 per cent. of the new ESA claimants and parents with a youngest child aged between one and less than seven nationally. This equates to roughly 65,000 ESA claimants, 60,000 lone parents and 10,000 partners of benefit recipients each year. These pathfinders are anticipated to begin in late 2010 and last for two years. They are likely to be across six districts and delivery will be a mixture of provider led and Jobcentre Plus led.

Lone parents with children aged less than seven who are not part of the ‘Progression to Work’ pathfinders are required to attend six-monthly work focused interviews where they can access information about voluntary participation in the new deal for lone parents as well as access a wide range of support to help them move into, and remain and progress in, work.

This package of support under new deal for lone parents is also available to lone parents affected by the new benefit requirements introduced in November 2008 for lone parents with older children. However, once a lone parent has been in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance for 12 months, they will switch to contracted flexible new deal provision. This will provide personalised help to all participants, including specialised help for lone parents.

Partners of benefit claimants can also, through mandatory work focused interviews, access information about voluntary participation in the new deal for partners, which provides a similar level of provision to new deal for lone parents such as specialised advice, support and training in helping partners to enter or return to work.