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Housing Benefit

Volume 519: debated on Monday 22 November 2010

18. What assessment he has made of the likely effects of his proposed reductions in housing benefit entitlement on jobseeker’s allowance claimants who have been unable to find work for more than 12 months. (25125)

The detailed design of the measure is still being developed and we are carefully considering its impact. We will publish a full impact assessment to accompany the relevant legislation when it is introduced in Parliament.

The proposal is obviously designed as a work incentive measure, but it could be argued that any claimant affected will represent a failure of the measure to get people back into work. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that anyone who is affected is genuinely unwilling to find work?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. The key is to try to stop people being unemployed for 12 months. He will be aware that 90% of those who come on to JSA flow off before the end of 12 months. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is bringing forward the Work programme, which will help the most hard-to-help groups before the end of the 12-month period to give them the maximum chance of not being in that position in the first place, which is our priority.

There are already single parents in my constituency—not exclusively but in the majority female—who are experiencing serious difficulty in convincing employers that they must have flexible working to maintain their child care. What are the Government doing to ensure that employers are aware of their responsibility, given the draconian effects of the proposed reduction in JSA?

The hon. Lady is right to point out the importance of a flexible jobs market. The good news is that a large proportion of the new jobs that are being created are part-time jobs that will be of particular benefit to lone parents. The Government will consult on the right to request flexible working in the coming year.

The number of job applicants and the number of posted job vacancies varies widely from constituency to constituency and country to country. Is it fair to apply a universal rule to all claimants when their ability to comply with that rule varies so widely?

The hon. Gentleman will know that Jobcentre Plus advisers already have a good deal of discretion in how they respond to individuals to reflect individual circumstances. We are keen to see that measures such as the Work programme are tailored to the individual so that they can address the particular problems that they face. If those problems involve transport or a lack of very local job vacancies, they can be addressed through the Work programme.