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DWP Consultation: In Work, Better Off

This Consultation Ends On October 31st


The main ideas in this consultation are covered in the Executive Summary (9 pages) and the Impact Assessment (35 pages).

The EO Campaign Website also has a walkthrough on how you can respond to this consultation.

You don't have to answer the consultation questions, you can just email feedback to the consultation address welfare.reform@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.. However, for people who do want to make a full response to the specific consultation questions, EO Government Policy Group has put together a Help File of notes and comments.

An Impact Assessment is supposed to set out the projected costs and benefits of Government proposals (the "impact" is primarily the immediate financial impact on local and national government).

The introduction to the IA for this consultation says that it should be regarded as a draft and that the Government welcomes more feedback from stakeholders. This is where people would tend to point out that the costs have been under-estimated and that the benefits have been over-estimated.

The Government wants to increase the rate of employment from to 74% to 80%.

Moving Lone Parents From Income Support To Jobseeker's Allowance
When Child Is 12 (2008), When Child Is 7 (2010) And
Moving Incapacity Benefit Claimants Onto Employment Support Allowance

The Executive Summary and the Impact Assessment state that the Government wants to move people from "inactive" benefits such as Income Support and Incapacity Benefit and onto Jobseeker's Allowance or a new benefit for people with illness/disability called Employment Support Allowance or ESA. The opposite of "inactive" benefits would be something like Jobseekers' Allowance, where claimants are obliged to engage actively with the Benefits Agency in terms of extra interviews and so on and where claimants are obliged to seek work as a condition of benefit.

1/ Proposed Changes For Lone Parents On Income Support

At present lone parents can claim Income Support until their youngest child is 16. The Government is proposing to change this. Questions 1 and 2 of the consultation ask us what age WE think is appropriate but the Government has already answered its own question as follows:
"Given the substantial increase in childcare availability since 1997, we propose that from October 2008, lone parents with a youngest child aged 12 or over will no longer be entitled to Income Support solely on the grounds of being a lone parent. They may, however, be eligible to transfer to Jobseeker's Allowance or another benefit. Subsequently, from October 2010, this age would be reduced to seven years old."
Lone Parents On Jobseeker's Allowance Will Be Required To Look For Work Or Face Benefit Cuts
"Those lone parents who transfer to Jobseeker's Allowance will be expected to look for suitable work in return for personalised help and support. The popular and successful New Deal for Lone Parents programme includes personal adviser support, help with childcare and training, and financial incentives. Building on this we will ensure that lone parents get the appropriate help, support and advice both before and after they cease to be eligible for Income Support. This will include improved childcare provision and help with identifying jobs with suitable flexible working arrangements. "
There is also a plan to introduce "mandatory work-focused interviews every six months for partners of Jobseeker's Allowance customers with children, to discuss employment and set out the help and support available to this group. "

(Executive Summary pages 11-12)

What Can We Do About These Proposals?

I think the element to focus on is that parents of children aged 12+ ( going down in a couple of years to aged 7 ) will "no longer be entitled to Income Support solely on the grounds of being a lone parent. "

One way to tackle this is to demonstrate that lone parents who home educate must still be entitled to Income Support because they have additional responsibilities.

An additional point to make here is that in a number of cases home educating lone parents have also taken on the responsibility of providing home-based education for a disabled or Special Needs child/children. (Statistically it is more likely that a disabled or SEN child will be in a one-parent household than a two-parent household, and the number of families who now home educate because of the inadequacies of state provision for SEN/disability is also on the increase.)

We have to remember that the plans are in two phases. What might seem halfway possible with some 12 year olds is not very likely with a 7 year old and unless we make the case for home education now, the proposals will apply to parents of 7 year olds from 2010.

We know from a recent conversation with a home educating constituent that Caroline Flint, the Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform, does not think that there are very many home educating lone parents.

Another approach is to point out that the costs of moving home educating lone parents off Income Support and onto Jobseeker's Allowance will outweigh any possible benefits.

Impact Assessment Asks Extra Question About Involving Stakeholders In Equality Impact Assessment

There is an important consultation question about the Impact Assessment which is only found in the Impact Assessment document itself:

"What further analysis do you think we need to do when undertaking a fuller equality impact assessment? How can we ensure that we have involved stakeholders in these assessments? "
Here we can make the specific point that home educators were not consulted and that our contribution needs to be included in any assessment of the impact of these proposals. Nor were home educating parents of disabled children consulted when this draft Impact Assessment was drawn up.

Comments about the Impact Assessment should be sent to the same consultation address welfare.reform@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

In general terms we can make the usual criticism which applies to all Impact Assessments, namely that they are too vague, they haven't consulted with stakeholders before drawing them up, they over-estimate the benefits and underestimate the costs and so on. In the particular case of this Impact Assessment the DWP places undue reliance on upbeat statistics from other New Deals which were significantly different, such as the New Deal for Young People on Jobseeker's Allowance, where benefits were summarily cut if claimants did not comply, in a way which does not seem feasible for lone parents with additional carer's responsibilities.

We can do our own cost/benefit analysis of the money saved on school places (c.£4,000 a year before extra costs for SEN provision ) school transport including taxi/private transport to special schools, free school meals, subsidised places in wraparound care at extended school facilities.

We could add to this any additional carer's responsibilities and the amount it would cost the state.

What Is The Difference Between Lone Parent Income Support And Lone Parent Jobseeker's Allowance And Why Are These Proposals So Bad?

This is a tricky one to work out and is an area where we could reasonably ask a number of questions in our consultation responses and in questions to Ministers and Members of Parliament.

The total amount paid to claimants may well be the same initially. The benefit is likely to be made up of two halves, one from Department of Work and Pensions (the personal allowance) and the other from the Inland Revenue (Child Tax credits). I understand that this splitting of benefits has already been rolled out in some areas for Income Support claimants already, with a sum for Child Tax Credits replacing part of the IS amount. (Since IS is means-tested most other income is taken into account, with a few exceptions). The personal element will be similar to the amount currently paid by Jobseeker's Allowance. In my own case as a lone parent the personal element is around half of the total amount.

The main difference will be that JSA is what the Government calls an "active benefit" with a requirement to be actively seeking work or else face benefit cuts. I am here assuming that the benefits sanctions would apply to the JSA element of the state benefit, and NOT to the Child Tax Credit element but this isn't directly stated and again this is a question we could raise in consultation responses and elsewhere.

What The DWP Now Proposes For People On Jobseeker's Allowance

Remember that this is what is lined up from 2010 for lone parents when the youngest child is 7 unless we make a FUSS about home educating and caring responsibilities.

The clearest statement of what the Government proposes for all JSA claimants is in the Impact Assessment page 10 onwards.

The key words are:

The Four Stages Of The Jobseeker's Allowance Process

The Impact Assessment pages 11-13 clearly sets out the 4 stages.

Stage One

New claimants will have a personal adviser who will look at "the customer's barriers to finding a job". The adviser will assess whether the claimant needs immediate "support", ie if they have a gap in "basic skills" or "employability skills ".

The IA states that 60% of JSA claimants currently find a job within 13 weeks of beginning a claim.

Stage Two

After 3 months of JSA there will be a formal review "and all customers will be submitted to vacancies. Jobseekers will also be expected to extend their job search based on travel to work, wage and working hours, rather than by preferred employment or occupation. "

Stage Three /The Gateway Stage

Stage 3 kicks in after 6 months, and will be similar to the current NEW DEAL GATEWAY. There will be a formal review with the personal adviser, who will draw up a back to work action plan. Agreed activities in this action plan will be mandatory.

NB Question 15 of the DWP consultation asks:
Should some people be enabled or required to enter the Gateway stage more quickly than others, taking account of their employment history or needs? Which groups should be 'fast-tracked'?

The Impact Assessment is already proposing that those with a "history of benefit dependency" or who are identified as lacking basic skills will be fast-tracked onto the more interventionist stage of JSA.

Stage Four : Specialist Return-To-Work Provision

Stage 4 begins after 12 months on Jobseeker's Allowance and continues for the second year of the JSA claim.

This is the contracted-out part of the plan and looks to me like a big Government job-creation plan for job advising firms and consultancies, including private businesses and the charitable organisations/voluntary sector (the latter increasingly making its bread and butter money from local and national Government contracts and also employing a growing number of people)

In short, the claimant would move out from the JobCentre and go to a specialist independent provider. The DWP Impact Assessment is very interested in feedback on this part of the proposals, as to whether the providers have incentive scheme, how can they be encouraged to prioritise "harder cases", how long their contracts should be and to what degree they should be encouraged to sub-contract etc.

Claimants Must Take Up Suitable Work + Mandatory Requirement For Full Time Work Experience/Community Work

During stage 4 claimants will be seeing their adviser every fortnight at least. There will be an "initial in-depth assessment of employment-related needs and production of a challenging personal action plan. " Participation and compliance will be mandatory.

The Impact Assessment says that the Government will expect JSA claimants to take up suitable work and to act to improve their job chances. I think this is directly relevant to home educating parents and needs a comment.

At stage 4 there will also be mandatory requirement for a full-time activity such as work experience or work in the community. It is not clear how long this would be.

Question 16 of the consultation refers to this plan as follows:

Should we require a period of work experience from those who do not succeed in getting work after benefiting from a more intensive level of help from specialist providers? How can we best ensure that this work experience is beneficial?
Stage 4 of the JSA claim outside the JobCentre with the independent provider will last for a year. At the end of the second year of the JSA claim, people will be returned to the JobCentre where they will go back on the Gateway Stage 3.

2/ Moving Incapacity Benefit Claimants Onto Employment Support Allowance

The main focus of this consultation response will probably be on lone parents/Income Support but there are also important changes proposed to Incapacity Benefit claimants and we home educators can use the DWP consultation as a platform for this, since it is also covered by the Department of Work and Pensions and comes under the same Government Green Paper, on the theme of shifting claimants from "inactive" to "active" benefits.

A number of home educating parents are in receipt of Incapacity Benefit and will be affected by the changes proposed in the Government Green Paper.

Here are some short links about the Employment Support Allowance:


This is how Newcastle Council for example explains the new system, which clearly demonstrates that the move is from "inactive" to "active" benefits, requiring the claimant to be actively seeking work:

"The Government plans to introduce Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to replace Incapacity Benefit and other incapacity for work benefits in November 2008.

ESA will focus on capability for work rather than benefit entitlement or incapacity.

The ESA is part of the Welfare Reform Act. It will have contributory and means tested parts. People will be able to claim on the basis of their National Insurance contributions, or on low income grounds, or both.

The existing Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) will be revised.

The allowance A basic rate, equivalent to Jobseekers Allowance, will be paid for up to 13 weeks. During this time the claimant will attend a work focused interview and go through the revised Personal Capability Assessment.

Claimants assessed as capable of "work related activity" will then receive an additional component provided they comply with certain conditions. Some people with severe disabilities will get a different additional component with no conditions attached. They are known as the "support group".

Certain premiums will be payable with the means tested part of ESA. There is no disability premium, this is replaced by the additional components.

But means tested ESA will include the Enhanced Disability and Severe Disability Premiums.

The process

  • The first 12 weeks of the claim is called the assessment phase. The claimant receives the lower amount, equivalent to Jobseekers Allowance.
  • The revised Personal Capability Assessment should be applied during this phase. It includes:
  • an assessment of capability for work; plus
  • an assessment of capability for work related activity; plus
  • a work focused health related assessment (except for those in the support group)
  • The first work focused interview takes place after 8 weeks. The claimant is expected to discuss their aspirations for work and the steps they might take to help them take up a job. The Personal Adviser will tell them about what support is available.
  • Support available is based on the Pathways to Work pilots.
  • The first work focused interview can be deferred for claimants who are "severely sick or disabled".
  • Claimants assessed as capable of work related activity will be paid the additional work related activity component. It is paid provided they take reasonable steps to "manage their condition" and to help them "move towards the workplace". They have 5 further work focused interviews, probably at monthly intervals. They are expected to agree an action plan and discuss what they are doing to try to get back to work. Claimants are not required to take up any of the support offered. But their ESA can be progressively reduced back to Jobseekers Allowance level if they fail to take some steps towards getting back to work.
  • Work focused interviews may be waived if the claimant is so close to returning to work an interview would not achieve anything.
  • Work focused interviews may be deferred in certain circumstances.
  • Claimants assessed as having "limited capability for work related activity" will be paid the additional support component. They do not have to comply with any conditions to get the higher rate of ESA. But they can volunteer to undertake work related activity and can receive the same Pathways to Work type support.

How To Respond To The Consultation

The EO Campaign website has walkthrough on how you can respond to the consultation. This includes sample responses.

As confirmed with Roger Pugh of the DWP Consultations team we do NOT have to restrict our response to answering the specific 16 questions in the consultation, we can send in a free-form reply/feedback on any of the consultation issues. An example of this can be found in the sample responses on the EO campaign site.

List Of Consultation Questions

Question 1:
At the moment, lone parents are entitled to Income Support until their youngest child is 16. Is it right that this age should be reduced?

Question 2:
What would the minimum age be?

Question 3:
Should we do more to ensure that our support for lone parents is accessible and useful for all groups, in particular those with disabled children and those from certain disadvantaged groups and areas?

Question 4:

More frequent Work Focused Interviews are currently offered to lone parents in the two years before their eligibility to Income Support is lost. As the age of the youngest child is reduced, should other forms of support be provided, and over what period prior to loss of eligibility?

Question 5:
For lone parents who move onto Jobseeker's Allowance when they lose Income Support eligibility, what forms of support (in addition to those provided to Jobseeker's Allowance claimants who are not lone parents) should be available, and over what timescale?

Question 6:
Jobseeker's Allowance recipients can, in certain circumstances, restrict their search for work to a minimum of 16 hours per week. Should additional flexibilities be available if the proposed changes are made?

Question 7:
What form might a 'better off in work' assurance for lone parents take?

Question 8:
Are any special provisions required for lone parents who move onto benefits other than Jobseeker's Allowance (for example, Employment and Support Allowance or Carer's Allowance)?

Question 9:
In addition to the improvements in childcare provision and the right to request flexible working, is there further support that should be provided to help lone parents into work and support them whilst there?

Question 10:
What more could we do to help working families - especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds - improve their earnings and lift themselves out of poverty?

Question 11:
What more could we do to help ethnic minority women, particularly of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, overcome specific barriers they face?

Question 12:
In exchange for more specialist support, are we right to ask more of those who have been unemployed and receiving benefit the longest?

Question 13:
Should there be any exceptions to this approach of increased conditionality and increased support?

Question 14:
Is a structured, progressive regime of support and conditionality at fixed intervals the right approach?

Question 15:
Should some people be enabled or required to enter the Gateway stage more quickly than others, taking account of their employment history or needs? Which groups should be 'fast-tracked'?

Question 16:
Should we require a period of work experience from those who do not succeed in getting work after benefiting from a more intensive level of help from specialist providers? How can we best ensure that this work experience is beneficial?

Food for Thought:
Home Education for Teenagers

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