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Benefits: Jobseekers Allowance

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 11 March 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to ensure that suitable childcare facilities are available at appropriate hours before introducing new jobseeker’s allowance rules for lone parents in October 2008. [HL2259]

In Ready for work: full employment in our generation we announced that we would amend regulations to increase Jobcentre Plus adviser discretion so that a lone parent who is claiming JSA will not be penalised if they leave a job, or fail to take up a job, because appropriate affordable childcare is not available.

Under the Childcare Act 2006, from April 2008 all local authorities in England and Wales are required to take reasonable steps to secure sufficient childcare to meet the needs of working parents. In doing so, they must have particular regard to the needs of lower-income working families. In determining an appropriate level of supply in their areas, local authorities will liaise with local Jobcentre Plus management to assess projected levels of demand from parents moving from welfare into work and to ascertain any specific requirements our customers have. The reforms announced in Ready for Work apply only to lone parents with school-aged children. In England, the aim is that all schools will offer extended school services by 2010, including for school holiday periods.

The provisions of the Childcare Act do not extend to Scotland. However, the devolved Administration has a stated objective of improving the availability of childcare for working parents and has invested significantly in this area in recent years. Following discussions, officials in the Scottish Executive have indicated that the projected levels of increased demand for childcare in Scotland resulting from these regulations can easily be absorbed by current provision.