Unemployed lone parents could to be forced into mandatory unpaid work placements as part of fresh changes to benefits coming into force from the 28th April 2014.
Lone parents in receipt of Income Support who have a child between the age of 3-4 will be required to undertake ‘mandatory work related activity’ “to better prepare them for the full work-related requirements they will face when their child turns 5”.
The changes will also apply to lone parents in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ (WRAG) of the sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Local authority childcare schemes will be made available to allow the changes to come into effect and help free up lone parents to partake in the new requirements. Up to fifteen hours of free childcare will be available for those affected.
Income Support claimants with a child between the age of 1-4 will also be required to take part in work focused interviews at their nearest Jobcentre. The time and duration ‘will be tailored to the needs of the lone parent’.
Failure to comply with the changes – without good cause – could result in lone parents having their benefits cut or stopped completely (sanctioned). The level of the cut will begin at 20% but could increase to 100% for ‘further failures’. However, only one Income Support cut will be permitted in a two-week period.
It has also been announced this week that jobseeker’s who have been out of work for over three years, and who have already taken part in the government’s controversial Work Programme, will be required to undertake community work placements for up to 30 hours per week. They will also be expected to spend 10 hours per week looking for work.
The DWP has given the example of “clearing up litter and graffiti in local areas” which has previously been reserved for community volunteers and criminal offenders.
> Which is a pretty good indication of how our betters regard the unemployed – criminals who need to be punished. For their own good, you understand…
My contention is that if you have to work for benefits, then they are no longer benefits – they’re wages, and wages below the National Minimum Wage at that.
In this instance, failure to comply will result in jobseeker’s having their benefits cut for four weeks which could extend to several months for repeat offenders.
New Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants will also have to wait 7 days before they become entitled for the unemployment benefit.
We have been informed that once a lone parent with a child over the age of 3 ‘volunteers’ for participation in the government’s ‘Work Programme’, that participation then becomes ‘mandatory’.
Source – Welfare News Service, 02 April 2014
The number of children whose parents cannot find full-time work and are forced to work one or more part-time jobs has soared by 46% since the coalition government came to office, latest figures show.
Figures obtained by Newcastle Labour MP Catherine McKinnell show that between 2010 to 2013 the number of children whose parents were working part-time hours rose from 443,000 to 646,000, which Labour claim is a significant blow to the government’s child poverty strategy.
“While Ministers have been squabbling about how poverty is defined, these figures show how much tougher life is for families under David Cameron’s government.
“Getting parents into work should be the key step towards increasing their standard of living and reducing the number of children living in poverty. But for far too many families at the moment being in work just isn’t enough to meet the basic cost of living.
“Labour will back families and help to make work pay. We will expand free childcare for working parents, strengthen the minimum wage and crack down on exploitative use of zero-hours contracts. And we also want to introduce a lower 10p starting rate of tax, to help 24 million people on middle and low incomes.
“But while ordinary families are struggling with a cost-of-living crisis, David Cameron has given a £3 billion tax cut to the top one per cent of earners. We’d reverse that after the election as part of our plan to get the deficit down in a fairer way.”
The government has been forced to shelve plans to redefine the definition of child poverty which is currently defined by a households income. Children are said to be living in poverty if their parents total income is less than 60% of the national average.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, wanted to change the way child poverty is measured, by taking a child’s family life into account as well as a family’s income, such as a child’s education and whether or not they come from a workless household.
Iain Duncan Smith was close to securing a deal with the Liberal Democrats, but it is understood that the plans were vetoed by George Osborne at the Treasury Department.
Liberal Democrat Education Minister David Laws, told the BBC:
“I can’t get into the entrails of why the Conservatives have been unable to agree and come forward with a serious set of measures. They will have to explain that.
“What I’m not willing to do is to allow this key debate over measures which are so important in driving the right policies in future to simply be vetoed by one party.”
> “I can’t get into the entrails…” That’s a weird and rather unpleasent scenario. Bet that’ll be appearing in a future edition of Private Eye.
He added: “The Liberal Democrats have a very clear idea of what the new measures should be, and we’re not going to allow the Conservative Party simply to end discussion of this.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves MP said:
“Child poverty is set to rise by 400,000 under David Cameron’s government, while ministers squabble over the way poverty is defined.
“The row between George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith does nothing to help working people who are £1,600 worse off a year because of the cost-of-living crisis.
“If David Cameron was serious about cutting child poverty he would scrap the bedroom tax, introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee, strengthen the minimum wage, incentivise the living wage and extend free childcare for working parents.”
The former Labour MP who chairs the current government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, Alan Milburn, said: “A strategy which cannot be measured is meaningless.
“Despite taking more than a year to think about it, the government has drawn a blank, apparently unable to reach agreement on what a new set of measures should look like.
“The government has ended up in a no-man’s land where it has effectively declared its lack of faith in the current measures but has failed to produce an alternative set. This is beyond Whitehall farce.”
> The last few years have been a Whitehall farce… it’s just a pity Labour didn’t feel the need to start kicking up before. I’m sure the proximity to the next General Election is purely coincidental…
Source – Welfare News Service, 04 March 2014