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EO response to SSAC consultation The Social Security
(Lone parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008

Stop Press

On July 21st the DWP published the long awaited Welfare Reform Green Paper.
You can find more information here.

Consultation Document

email SSAC

Opening Comments and Key Points
Position Statement
Why Jobseeker's Allowance Won't Work For Home Educating Lone Parents
Jobseeker's Allowance And Childcare
Children With Disabilities And Learning Difficulties
Flexibilities For Lone Parents Whose Children Are Out Of School
Home Education Works
New Deal For Lone Parents (NDLP) And Flexible New Deal(FND) ...
Background Information About Home Education And Home Educated Children

Opening Comments and Key Points

The proposed new regulations for JSA are totally unworkable. Whether one accepts the principles behind the change or not, the proposed new regulations are contradictory and confused and require a great deal more planning and consultation. Under the present hastily drawn-up proposals, the entire system will shortly grind to a halt, vulnerable families will be plunged into poverty and the JobCentres will be flooded with expensive and time-consuming appeals. It is not too late to demand that the Government think again. Why wait till it all goes pear-shaped as it certainly will? Why not work to get it right in the first place?

In addition, whatever the final regulations for Jobseeker's Allowance, home educating lone parents must be permitted to remain on Income Support. Jobseeker's Allowance is a completely inappropriate benefit for home educating lone parents and this situation must be resolved by regulation following recommendations from SSAC and support from both houses.

Education Otherwise is liaising with Kate Bell of One Parent Families/Gingerbread. We should also like to thank Gill Saunders of SSAC and Alison Durbin, Head of the Parent Employment Division at the Department of Work and Pensions and Chair of the DWP Lone Parent Stakeholder Group.


  • Education Otherwise petition has almost 600 signatories http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/EOloneparent/ We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to permit home educating lone parents to remain on Income Support
  • Many home educating lone parents would not consider themselves able to meet the conditions for JSA and so would have the personal element of their benefit cut 100%. This would reduce the family income by £60.50 a week. The family would then have to apply for "hardship payments" which would depend on JCP staff judging our actions to be "reasonable".
  • In more general terms, the first age threshold of 12 for the new regulations is wrong. The lower age threshold of 7 is so wrong it is Not Even Wrong.
  • DWP ignores reservations and recommendations from the Social Security Advisory Committee http://www.ssac.org.uk/pdf/gp_response_version_8.pdf
  • DWP ignores reservations and recommendations from the cross-party Department of Work and Pensions http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmworpen/580/580.pdf
  • DWP cost/benefit analysis vastly underestimates the running costs and hugely overestimates the fiscal benefits ie it will be hugely expensive to administer and will not result in this client group moving off benefit and remaining off benefit.
  • DWP counts a 13 week job as a "success" for the New Deal programme even when over a third of JSA clients without childcare issues subsequently return to benefit.
  • Government could either promote sustainable jobs or compel lone parents to take any low-paid job out of desperation. DWP currently prefers the latter option and has been rightly reproached by the Work and Pensions Committee for this short-sighted approach.
  • Draft regulations do not address vital issues of disability and special educational needs
  • SEN is vastly under-diagnosed, because there are cost implications for a positive diagnosis. Therefore these children will not show up on the radar as "disabled"
  • Disability Living Allowance at even the lowest rate is virtually impossible to claim without specialist advocacy and support.
  • Lone parents caring for children who receive the lowest rate of DLA will not receive any leeway under the new regulations and the regulations will be administered by staff untrained in disability and special educational needs. This is grossly unfair to both the claimants and the staff. This area has been highlighted by the Work and Pensions Committee.
  • JobCentres are being closed throughout the country; new draft regulations bring tens of thousands more claimants on to JSA regime; the JSA regime is predicated on face to face contact at the JCP where claimants are strongly encouraged into employment ; new draft regulations stipulate maximum journey time and length for lone parent JSA claimants. Conclusion: the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. This does not just apply to rural areas.
  • DWP asserts that this type of welfare reform has already worked well in other countries. This is simply not true. Green Left, Australia's leading radical newspaper
  • Draft regulations make absolutely no additional provision for "vulnerable groups", despite assurances in the DWP letter to SSAC. This point is critical. Can the draft regulations be amended, please.
  • There is a complete disjunction between provision for claimants in the first, second and third years of JSA claim. The first year is in-house and the second year is privatised. There is no information about how the New Deal for Lone Parents or NDLP will mesh with the Flexible New Deal or FND.

Position Statement

We would first like to state that we are implacably opposed to these regulations. They will be be unworkable, inhumane and hugely expensive to administer.

In addition, Education Otherwise urges the Minister to address the particular policy issue of lone parents on Income Support who home educate their children outside the state system. We have made recommendations to the Minister that these lone parents must be permitted to remain on Income Support and our petition has gained nearly 600 signatories the first fortnight but in common with every other lone parent stakeholder group and children's rights organisations we remain greatly concerned about the impact of the proposals on the children of ALL lone parents.

The stark choice for the Government is between putting together a package of measures to promote sustainable secure employment for lone parents on the one hand and coercing lone parents off benefit on the other. The Department is currently opting for coercion, compulsion and conditionality, which has not worked in other countries and will not work in the United Kingdom.

The Department's cost/benefit analysis is recklessly over-optimistic. As the Work and Pensions Committee Report stated on June 12th: "We agree with Lisa Harker's assessment that the Government should be at "the most expensive stage" of its child poverty strategy - putting in place investment for the short term and long term objectives."

One example of the costs is in the area of childcare. The regulations depend on parents putting children into childcare, yet childcare costs are estimated at only £96 per child per week, which is clearly predicated on one of the following options : informal childcare eg with grandparents; children remaining at school for 10 hours a day; children returning to an empty house or pre-adolescents assuming caring responsibilities for younger siblings. The Department does not even attempt to analyse the childcare requirements for children of different ages within the same family.

The Department has looked at what currently happens to lone parents on Income Support in order to predict what will happen with the new regulations. We are told that 45% will move to JSA; 15% will remain on Income Support; 16% will claim ESA; 8% will move into employment and that there is another 15% for whom the Department has no information.

We are aware that lone parents are often obliged to put restrictions on the type of employment they are able to combine with their caring responsibilities and that these jobs are often low paid and unsustainable. Currently the JobCentres only monitor the move off JSA for the first 13 weeks, ie if a claimant is in employment after 13 weeks this is counted as a "success", yet over a third of participants in New Deal for Lone Parents are back on JSA within a year because the jobs were not sustainable or because of childcare issues. The Government's Work and Pensions committee rightly refers to this as "churn" and the Department itself acknowledges in these consultation proposals that this is very bad for the children.

Moreover, the proposed employers' low wage subsidy or "Better Off In Work Credit" will only operate for the first 52 weeks of employment. The Work and Pensions Committee Report June 12th 2008 rightly points out that the BWC is

"not yet a guarantee that an individual will be better off in work as it does not cover passported benefits, particularly free school meals, or transport costs. It is a deception to tell people they will be better off in work if this is not the case, or if they will be worse off once time limited credits run out. (Paragraph 346)"
"We are concerned that the introduction of increasing numbers of time limited credits will result in people being tempted into work which leaves them worse off, or is unsustainable once the credit runs out. This would lead to increasing "churn" of people moving in and then out of work when the credits run out. The evidence we have received indicates that this is the worst possible outcome for children's wellbeing." (Paragraph 347)

It is extremely unlikely that 8% of lone parents on Income Support will move directly into employment. The figure is ,more likely to be a quarter of that percentage at best. This puts far far more lone parents on to JSA than the Department acknowledges. The new regulations for ESA also mean that many claimants will fall at the WCA hurdle and also be migrated to JSA, so again the figure of 16% is ludicrous and should be quartered.

Even if we accept the prediction that 15% will remain on IS, this still puts nearly three quarters of current IS lone parent claimants into JobCentres on the JSA regime. Which then begs the question of a/ how this can possibly be administered even in the short term and b/ what predictions are being made by JCP staff as to the percentage of these claimants finding and retaining a job. We suspect that the Department's guesstimates are encompassed in the following blithe assertion that "After receiving JSA for 12 weeks, almost half (45%) of JSA leavers are recorded as having moved into work."

Is the Department seriously suggesting that "almost half" of the 73% of lone parents migrated from IS to JSA will move into work within 12 weeks? Or is the Department predicting that "almost half" of the 45% figure will move into work within 12 weeks ? Or has the Department really no idea at all as to how many tens of thousands of lone parents will be warehoused on JSA and for how long?

We already know that there are 6,000 lone parents with at least one child over 7 who is in receipt of the lower component of Disability Living Allowance. The lone parent in this situation is not going to move quickly into sustainable employment. There are many thousands more lone parents who do not even attempt to fill in the 40 page DLA form or whose applications are turned down but who have additional caring responsibilities which will clearly restrict employment opportunities.

We echo the statement published yesterday by the Work and Pensions Committee:

"We are concerned about the Government's plans to exempt only parents who are entitled to claim Carers' Allowance from the requirement for lone parents to work. The proposal does not reflect the reality for families with disabled children, particularly those with the most sick and vulnerable children. Lone parents of disabled children should receive every support to help them to work, but a broader definition is needed for those exempt from the requirement to work. We recommend that the Government engages in further deliberation on this matter with the relevant stakeholders and seriously consider a wider group for exemption. (Paragraph 240)"
The administration costs of Income Support are not onerous, since payments are generated automatically. JSA is much more expensive to administer, requiring hundreds more staff hours for each claimant, even with the most straightforward claim before we get into all the proposed flexibilities and grey areas and tiers of discretionary decision-making over sanctions during the first year "in-house" at the JobCentre. ( The Department has not even attempted to cost the second year of privatised personalised back to work support, so we are unable to comment on this area.)

We can hardly begin to guess what was in the minds of the authors of these draft regulations, but either they presume that "almost half" of lone parent JSA claimants will move seamlessly into work within 12 weeks and/or that the rolling programme of JobCentre closures and inadequate public transport especially in rural areas, combined with the concessions over signing on will in fact mean that many JSA claimants rarely make it to the JobCentre to be a financial burden on the system and that the administration costs will be almost as low as for IS. "Customers will be offered postal status if they live more than one hour, door to door, by public transport, in either direction, from the nearest jobcentre [] If no public transport is available, postal status is determined by whether or not the customer can reasonably be expected to walk from home to the jobcentre within one hour. Customers must not be asked to walk more than 3 miles. This will depend on things like their age, health and the terrain over which they must walk." p.67-8 DWP draft regulations.

Contrary to the Department's assertions, conditionality, compulsion and benefit sanctions for vulnerable lone parents has not helped children "move out of poverty" in other countries. As the lone parent stakeholder groups constantly point out, what works is tax credits and support and what does not work is compulsion. We are told that "early findings from Australia's welfare to work changes in 2006, which increased conditionality for all parents (including lone parents) with a youngest child aged of 6, reveal that improved labour market outcomes are emerging." p.47 DWP draft regulations. Yet as the following shows, this is clearly not the case. "Research commissioned by the NSW Premier's Council for Women and published in a report called Welfare to Work: A challenge to family values shows the considerable difficulties that single mothers have had coping with the new requirements - citing a lack of jobs that allow them to both drop off and pick up children from school, increased stress and a lack of training opportunities." "Accessing child care was reported as being a real barrier to taking part-time work. "Many women find that what is available is inadequate, expensive, variable in quality and difficult to access. Due to the high cost of before and after school care, and transport costs, many women feel they receive very little increased income despite taking up paid employment", the report emphasised. The many requirements of the Welfare to Work program inevitably increased the considerable stress already felt by single mothers, the report found. "Women report an increase in stress levels because they are so busy and this is having negative effects on family relationships" , the report stated. "There is no consideration of the impacts on already stressed/disadvantaged family life of the added stress of having to do more than one casual job to meet Centrelink requirements. "


Why Jobseeker's Allowance Won't Work For Home Educating Lone Parents

The reason why Education Otherwise insists that home educating lone parents should remain on Income Support is that the JSA regime will be completely unworkable for this group as a whole. We can predict this with complete certainty in advance. Why wait until the pilot and assessment stage ? Why over-complicate the issue by looking at each case individually over a long period of time, bringing in many tiers of decision-making ? This problem will not go away.

Jobseeker's Allowance Is An "Active Benefit"
The Department characterises JSA as an "active benefit". The claimant goes to the JobCentre twice a month, recounts the efforts being made to find a job, undertakes to continue to try and find a job and promises to take a job if one becomes available. Benefits are conditional on compliance and benefit sanctions are imposed for non-compliance.

Fortnightly Job Review
We have received the following feedback from home educating lone parents about Fortnightly Job Review or FJR, colloquially known as "signing on":
"What about signing on ? Pushing a disabled child in a wheelchair or buggy is hard work. Lone parents shouldn't be asked to push a buggy or wheelchair for any distance either, and that can result in physical damage to the parent."

"One off childcare for signing on will be really hard to find. There aren't any casual babysitters. Obviously it's not an option to leave them at home because there is no other responsible adult. Will the JobCentre pay childcare expenses or will I have to bring my children to sign on?"

"Will the JobCentre pay my children's bus fares when I sign on?"

"Will I be able to sign on by telephone or post ? I can't drag my children along and I can't leave them at home on their own for half the day. I have to change buses twice. Is there anybody who can answer my questions about this ? My lone parent advisor at the JobCentre knows nothing about it. "

"I am really worried about how I will be able to bring the kids when I sign on. The JobCentre is bound to tell me that if I put the kids in school I won't have this problem. Putting the kids back in school is not an option. "

"I'm on Income Support. Already I don't get any sympathy or understanding when I take the children to the Work Focused Interviews. The new rules will make it even worse. I am absolutely dreading it. "

Sanctions Are Not Effective For This Group
The Department tells us that sanctions are effective as a deterrent, that claimants accept the justice of the sanctions and that claimants modify their behaviour following sanctions. We are in touch with home educating lone parents on a daily basis and they have justifiable fears that their subsistence level family income would be severely jeopardised under JSA.

If home educating lone parents were put onto the JSA regime they would encounter JCP frontline staff and Decision Makers who would declare them to be acting unreasonably. At this point the personal element of the adult claimant's benefit would be cut, which would precipitate a long series of further referrals and appeals within the JSA system. We believe it is absolutely impossible to provide sufficient flexibility in the JSA regime for this group. This group of claimants will meet obstacles at every turn because the JSA regime was not drawn up for lone parents and of course the JSA regime was never drawn up and could never be drawn up for lone parents who have long term additional caring responsibilities for their children. The circle simply cannot be squared.

Jobseeker's Allowance And Childcare

Childcare is a key issue. Section 4.37 states:
"Jobcentre Plus will not dictate to parents which particular childcare providers they should use, but have an important role to play in both challenging pre conceived ideas about formal childcare and supporting parents to access childcare; parents need to make reasonable efforts to identify appropriate and affordable childcare and provide evidence to Jobcentre Plus on the steps they have taken to source such care; if a parent considers that appropriate and affordable childcare is not available, they will need to explain the reasons to Jobcentre Plus; where a parent considers that he or she cannot take up a job to which they are referred by a Jobcentre Plus Adviser because appropriate childcare is not available, a Jobcentre Plus Decision Maker will consider, on a case by case basis, whether the steps the parent has taken and the reasons they do not want to use available services are reasonable; and the costs of childcare are likely to be well within the tax credit limits, and any claims that childcare is not affordable will be considered on a case by case basis."
The Real Cost Of Childcare For Home Educators Is Much Higher
Hypothetically, if suitable appropriate childcare could be found for each child , a home educating lone parent with 2 children in formal childcare who worked for 16 hours a week, 4 hours a day plus 1 hour each way dropping children off at childcare provision and continuing to work would face a childcare bill of over 300 a week. The foregoing example is a conservative estimate and assumes that the lone parent has private transport. In other cases the travel times would of course be increased. Would the JobCentre personnel consider this "reasonable"? Would the Decision Maker consider this "reasonable"? Home educating lone parents are already being challenged at Work Focused Interviews and told that they are acting unreasonably and that they should put their children in school so that they are able to go to work.

The Issue Of Childcare
The SSAC consultation document contains the following statement:
"We propose to amend the JSA Regulations in connection with good and just cause so that a Decision Maker must consider whether a parent's child care responsibilities made it unreasonable for him to stay in employment, to take up paid employment, or to carry out a jobseeker's direction. We propose that the Decision Maker must specifically consider the availability and suitability of childcare. In addition, we propose that Decision Makers must consider any necessary child care expenses where they represent an unreasonable amount of that person's earnings." [ section 4.37]
Home educating lone parents are greatly concerned about how JobCentre staff will interpret the word "reasonable" in this context. We are further concerned about the phrase "availability and suitability of childcare". We commend the Department for attempting to clarify this issue in draft regulation, amending
Jobseekers' Allowance Regulations 1996 Regulation 13 paragraph 2 as follows:
(d) after paragraph (2) insert-
"(2A) For the purposes of paragraph (2)(d), where the person has caring responsibilities in relation to a child, in considering whether those responsibilities would, or did, make it unreasonable for him to undertake a particular employment or carry out the jobseeker's direction, regard shall be had, in particular, to the following matters-
(i) child care would not be, or was not, reasonably available to him or,
(ii) if it would be, or it was, available, it would be, or was, unsuitable due to his particular needs or those of the child." . DRAFT REGULATIONS PAGE 6 IN RELATION TO PARAGRAPH 2 (7) In regulation 13 (additional restrictions on availability for certain groups)-
(a) in paragraph (2), for "(3) or (4)" substitute "(3), (3A) or (4)"
Childcare is a key determinant for benefit eligibility and benefit sanctions . It hinges on this critical question : Was it acceptable for the lone parent to turn down a job offer or leave a job because of problems with finding childcare." The Decision Maker is to determine on a subjective case by case basis whether the lone parent has behaved "reasonably" with regard to childcare, but part of the criteria for "reasonableness" is to do with whether the childcare is "reasonably available". The Department has attempted to define a word by using the same word. We don't feel this is helpful either to the claimants or to the JobCentre staff or to the Advice Workers and advocates who will be inundated with complaints and appeals.

A further possible criteria for assessing "reasonableness" is proposed in regulation. Was the childcare "unsuitable due to his [ the parent's] particular needs or those of the child."

If these regulations go through, we predict chaos. Exactly how many avenues is the lone parent required to explore. Under the proposed draft regulations, "if parents consider that options identified are unsuitable they will be required to explain why and show that they have taken reasonable steps to find alternative provision."

Scenario 1
The parent says "I tried the childcare but it wasn't suitable for my particular needs because the childminder was caring for much younger children. " Was this a reasonable decision?

Scenario 2
The parent says: " I took my child to visit the childcare facility and he had a complete meltdown. I know he would never be able to cope. " Was this a reasonable decision?

Scenario 3
The parent says: " A friend is OK for the children to go to her house while I work but she isn't registered and it's not in my home. Someone has told me this isn't legal so I don't feel OK about it. My friend isn't prepared to come to my house. " What does the Department advise in this situation. Is it reasonable to say no?

Scenario 4
The parent says: "To begin with the kids were fine on their own while I went to work but last week there was a burglary in the house next door and now the children are too worried to be left on their own."

Scenario 5
The parent says: "The local school said they would be fine for my daughter to go in for 2 hours after school every day but she gets bullied because the other children don't understand why she isn't a pupil at the school. They've told her she is breaking the law and that her mum will go to prison. My daughter is now refusing to go "

Scenario 6
The parent says: "A new child has started at the childminder and he fights with my son. The childminder says I should have told her that my son gets angry and lashes out. I've tried to talk to her about Asperger's but she just wants me to take him out. "

The parent would say that the childcare does not meet the particular needs of the parent or the child. The Decision Maker could say that the needs are over-demanding or "unreasonable." Who decides? Will the Decision Makers be externally moderated ? The above scenarios are not plucked from the air; they represent a composite of some of the many questions Education Otherwise is asked on a daily basis.

Under the proposed draft regulations, "If parents consider that options identified are unsuitable they will be required to explain why and show that they have taken reasonable steps to find alternative provision."

This morning home educating parent wrote to us as follows:

"Child minders are often not keen to accept a child who requires more work than other children paying the same rate. A child who needs more supervision changes the way they have their time structured, causes complaints from other parents etc. It can be very hard to find care for these children. Also children with special needs often need supervision at an age when others don't - where is the childcare for a 14 year old that cannot be left alone? No after school provision for this group, and child minders aren't interested/equipped for this either."
We echo the statement published yesterday by the Work and Pensions Committee:
"We are concerned about the Government's plans to exempt only parents who are entitled to claim Carers' Allowance from the requirement for lone parents to work. The proposal does not reflect the reality for families with disabled children, particularly those with the most sick and vulnerable children. Lone parents of disabled children should receive every support to help them to work, but a broader definition is needed for those exempt from the requirement to work. We recommend that the Government engages in further deliberation on this matter with the relevant stakeholders and seriously consider a wider group for exemption. (Paragraph 240)"
Extended Schools Are Not A Viable Option For Home Educators
We know that extended schools form the backbone of the Government's plans for childcare.

"The Government has stated that, by 2010, there will be a childcare place for all children aged 3-14 years old in England whose parents want one. This provision will be available on weekdays between the hours of 8am and 6pm all year round. As part of this objective there is an aim that, by 2010, all schools in England will be offering extended services - which will include childcare where there is a demand. The Government exceeded its target of 2,500 schools providing the extended services core offer by September 2006 and by September 2008 it expects at least half of primary schools and a third of secondary schools to be offering extended services." [Annex 8 p.82]
Wraparound provision in extended schools could provide free or greatly subsidised childcare for up to 50 hours a week. Home educated children could only access these facilities for a maximum of 10 hours per week, between 4pm and 6pm which would not allow sufficient time to work for 16 hours once the parent had to take the children to school and then travel to and from work to the school in the space of 2 hours. It is possible that the home educating lone parent might be available for work for 5 hours a week using extended schools provision. This optimistic estimate assumes access to private transport. It also assumes that schools would take in children from outside the maintained sector. Once again this is a postcode lottery for home educated children.

Is the Department of Work and Pensions aware of the criteria for "community cohesion" in terms of the remit of extended schools ? Are frontline JobCentre staff aware of the criteria for community cohesion ? Are Decision Makers aware of the criteria for community cohesion ? Home educated children are not excluded outright from the criteria, but they take their chances with a host of other potential beneficiaries who tick more boxes for the schools. As a representative in the extended schools scheme in Sheffield told Education Otherwise:

"To put it bluntly, what's in it for us? We don't get any money for helping you. We sympathise but what do you expect us to do."
There Is No Suitable Childcare For Older Children
We are able to report that suitable affordable appropriate childcare cannot be found. In particular, suitable appropriate childcare cannot be found for older home educated children. Suitable appropriate childcare is not available for older home educated with disabilities and learning difficulties. In-home formal childcare is extremely hard to find and in the rare instances it is found, it is prohibitively expensive. We know this in advance. We know it from experience. This is not a "perceived barrier to childcare" or a "preconceived idea" [ section 4.37 "good cause and just cause" ; section 4.45 "our approach to appropriate and affordable childcare"] , yet it will be regarded as such by the JobCentre and therefore under the JSA regime, benefits will be cut. This group of people do not fit any of the DWP statistical generalisations about "lone parents of older children". Our parents are able to give us in-depth feedback about childcare because of their experience with respite care.

Statement from home educating parents with children on the autistic spectrum:

"Respite care is virtually impossible to find and is very expensive. There are very few registered respite carers trained for caring for a disabled child in the home of the child, and often this is the only type of childcare suitable for disabled children. "

"Respite childcare is there so that the parent can get a break from caring for the child and it would be inappropriate for the parent to have to use that time to work. This would result in a parent becoming stressed and burnt out."

"Respite care for disabled children must not be classed as suitable childcare for allowing a parent to go back to work."

80% Employment Rate Of Parents With Older Children?
We should also like to address the question of older parents, which has not been adequately considered by the Department. The age at which the claimant became a parent is important. Older parents are statistically more likely to have a child with disabilities. The disabilities may not show up on the radar for even the lowest rate DLA. Examples might include Downs Syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Will the JobCentre staff be aware of this ?

The Government has stated that in order to achieve across the board target of 70% employment ( from 57%) 80% of lone parents with older children will be expected to move into employment. Some of these parents will find it extremely difficult to secure suitable childcare. Will the JobCentre staff be aware of this and will they think the barriers are "reasonable" or "unreasonable"? Will there be sanctions ? Will the Decision Maker be aware of these issues ? Will the parent be pressured to put the child into school ? To state blandly that "childcare constraints are generally lower, the older the child"[ p.49] is to miss the point by a mile. Something which is "generally lower", may be constant or even much higher in a particular instance.

To put it another way, if 90% of lone parents on IS at any moment in time are "between 18 and 45", this is not the same as saying that there is a 90% chance that the parent of a 12+ year old will be under 45, since the group of lone parents on IS includes all parents of children from 0-16. We already know that in a quarter of lone parent families on Income Support where the child over the age of 12, there will be at least one disabled adult or child in the family.

Children With Disabilities And Learning Difficulties

In families where the child or children are home educated , some lone parents will never be able to work while caring for and home educating their disabled children. For example, if there are two children and both have lower rate Disability Living Allowance the lone parent will be treated in the same way as claimants with a child or children who are not disabled.

Children with severe allergies are not counted as "disabled" for the purposes of Disability Living Allowance. The Government says that they do not require extra care. Yet a child with a severe allergy may have to be rushed to hospital and the lone parent would be unable to comply with the JSA regime. The same is also true for children with epilepsy. Will the JCP staff be aware of this ? Will the NDLP Personal Advisors ? Will the Decision Makers ? Once again, we conclude that the JSA regime is unworkable and inappropriate in these cases.

With reference to the 4 "sanctions scenarios", if the claimant fails to apply for a suitable job because they cannot find child care or because they are home educating their child, sanctions could not act as a deterrent in the sense that sanctions are not going to stop them from repeating the behaviour. Home education and disabilities do not go away. The family's weekly income will be cut by up to 60 per week and the Decision Makers will not award hardship payments.

Statements from home educating lone parents with disabled children:

"It took me several months to find suitable child care for my son the first time we hired someone, the most recent time after a year we found no one. It would be unreasonable to expect to arrange childcare for home educated children with special requirements within 28 days. "

"It takes far more time to settle a child who is non-verbal as they are not be able to tell the carer what is going on, all information has to be relayed by the parent to the carer, such as what the child had already eaten, whether they have gone to the toilet, and so on."

"It is not uncommon for some disabled children to be stable, then have a turn for the worse for instance with epilepsy, which is also more common in autistic children. "

"Children with disabilities and special educational needs react more extremely to incidents during formal childcare. As a parent I had to take on full responsibility again for the child at short notice. I had to give up my job. I have a friend where the childminder said she could take a special needs child, but then found she couldn't cope and it affected her business with other parents. "

"My autistic son is peaceful at home but he soon got very angry and violent at the childminder's. He lashed out at other children and I had to take him back home. It's not fair on the other children. I can't do it again. I am desperate about the Government's new plans and I've got no idea how we are going to manage"

We echo the statement published yesterday by the
Work and Pensions Committee:
"We are concerned about the Government's plans to exempt only parents who are entitled to claim Carers' Allowance from the requirement for lone parents to work. The proposal does not reflect the reality for families with disabled children, particularly those with the most sick and vulnerable children. Lone parents of disabled children should receive every support to help them to work, but a broader definition is needed for those exempt from the requirement to work. We recommend that the Government engages in further deliberation on this matter with the relevant stakeholders and seriously consider a wider group for exemption. (Paragraph 240)"

Flexibilities For Lone Parents Whose Children Are Out Of School

The Department's draft regulations propose "flexibilities" in the JSA regime to deal with "genuine limitations" around finding "appropriate affordable childcare"for lone parents whose children would normally attend school. For example during the school holidays the Department recognises that it may be "unreasonable" for the lone parent to make childcare arrangements. In these situations, the lone parent will not have to attend the fortnightly FJR to "sign on" and Advisers "may treat parents faced with these difficulties as being available for work and as having good cause for not attending their FJRs during this period." [ section 4.23]

The Department is also suggesting that "parents who have additional caring responsibilities for a child because the child has been excluded from school" can also be treated as "being available for employment if there are no other arrangements that it would be reasonable for them to make in the circumstances. " [ section 4.25]

In the same vein, parents who have a parenting contract/order following their child's exclusion, truancy or misbehaviour at school can "restrict their availability for employment in any way" and yet still be "treated as satisfying the requirement to be available for employment"[ section 4.25] . In other words, the claimant will not have to sign on at the FJR and the JSA will still be paid.

If the Department refused the right for home educating lone parents to remain on Income Support, there would clearly have to be specific flexibilities for home educators within the JSA regime.

Benefit Cuts?
Home educating lone parents tell us that they know their benefit will be cut and that their families will suffer. A typical comment is "My benefit money will be cut when I can't follow the rules at the JobCentre. I don't understand how this is meant to lift children out of poverty."

On behalf of our members, we are attempting to make sense of the proposed regulations on hardship payments.

"Subject to the satisfaction of certain criteria, jobseekers may be entitled to hardship payments during the period of a sanction. A JSA hardship payment is an award of JSA made at a reduced rate (60% of their personal benefit or 80% if they, or a member of their household, are pregnant or seriously ill) to give a minimum level of financial support."
We are told that that no parent who is entitled to a hardship payment will be subject to a sanction of more than 40% of their personal benefit allowance, yet it is not at all clear who will be "entitled" and who will ultimately make this decision. We presume it will go up through the decision-making tiers at the JobCentre, beginning with the frontline staff, who clearly do not have an enviable task. Since the personal element of the JSA is currently £60.50, the family will immediately be 60 a week worse off. After some unspecified length of time which will clearly be extremely traumatic for the family, this £60 pound subsistence level income will be replaced by anything from zero to £36. During this period, the lone parent will not be able to make essential payments for food and housing and will be forced into unsecured debts which cannot be repaid. When the money runs out, parents frequently choose to go without food before depriving the children.

We wholeheartedly support the following statement from the Work and Pensions Committee Report published on June 12th:

"We are very concerned by evidence that 1 in 5 families with disabled children have had to cut back on food. In and out of work benefits must be set at a level to cover the extra costs of living with disability and ensure a decent standard of living. (Paragraph 160)"
Under the draft JSA regulations, benefits will be slashed when the lone parent fails to obey the JobCentre directives in terms of attending interviews and training. When the lone parent is unable to take up a job or has to leave a job because of childcare issues, 60 weekly benefit will be withheld unless the lone parent can convince the Decision Makers that there was "Good Cause" or "Just Cause."

We share the Work and Pensions Committee's concerns about sanctions:

"We are concerned about the impact of the Jobseeker's Allowance sanctions regime on children and family poverty. On Income Support the sanction is 20% of the personal benefit while on Jobseeker's Allowance it is up to 100%. DWP needs to review sanctions levels on Jobseeker's Allowance and develop a strategy on sanctions which takes account of the interests of children. (Paragraph 244)"

Home Education Works

Bridlington filmmaker Lewi Firth Bolton has turned down his dream job with the Oscar-winning creators of Wallace and Gromit - because he is only 14. Inspired by the animation series, the teenager started making films in his bedroom three years ago. The teenager said: "I am home educated and my parents teach me so we cover the basics and I can do the animation in my free time."

Aged 11, and with the help of a home tutor and his parents, Mary and Philip, Louis set about a vocational-based, home-study programme. Now 15, he is on his way to fulfilling his dream - of becoming a top chocolatier - and he's just signed a deal with supermarket Waitrose. The company's name, Chokolit, was chosen because Louis writes phonetically and this is how the word appears."

An inspirational student has overcome dyspraxia, beaten the bullies and won the prestigious Student of the Year 2008 award at Milton Keynes College. Matthew, aged 18, was home educated after a challenging time at school and his secondary education was entirely conducted by his parents. He took the big step of going to Milton Keynes College in 2006 because he wanted to re-integrate himself into mainstream education.

"School, with its uniforms and time structures, its routines and regimes, is a thing of the past for Joshua, 11, and Samuel, nine, while William, who's only four, will almost certainly never know school life at all. "The problem with schools is that one size is supposed to fit all," their mother says. "Well, it doesn't fit us."

"Home schooling isn't at home at all. It's educating in the community. We meet up with other families, go to museums, parks, the shops. I teach my kids life skills that are going to be far more useful than what they might learn in school."

"Meredith who was born in 1995 has also been educated at home, following her interests, which are completely different from her brother's. She spends much of her time meeting with her friends for drama, swimming, skating and other activities. She is sociable and confident with people of all ages, recently meeting a Japanese lady at a car boot sale and persuading her to come once per week for a conversational Japanese lesson. Now aged 12 she enjoys drama, reading Shakespeare, writing poetry and giggling with her friends about boys. "

Research has shown that home educated children flourish both educationally and socially with one-to-one support for their learning and personal development outside the school system.

"Whilst the home-educated children outscored their school counterparts, those from lower socio-economic groups outperformed their middle class peers. It appeared that a flexible approach to education, and a high level of parental attention and commitment, regardless of their socio- economic group and level of education, seemed the most important factors in the children's development and progress." Paula Rothermel Durham University

Cambridge University Primary Review February 2008 Primary Futures . This academic report considers the evidence base for educational alternatives. "Studies of home schooled children show clear and substantial evidence of high (and above average) performance. " "One constant in the midst of much complexity is the better than average performance of home schooled children when compared to age cohorts in the general population. "

New Deal For Lone Parents (NDLP) And Flexible New Deal(FND) Or
What Happens In The First Year and The Second Year and The Third Year Of JSA
and When Will We Ever Get A Decent Impact Assessment

The authors of the DWP letter to SSAC have not given us a clear picture of how the voluntary NDLP will mesh with the Flexible New Deal. Page 26 of the SSAC paper talks about FND and picks up on the themes from the Impact Assessment Lite to last year's Green Paper In Work Better Off. By stage 3, 6-12 months the authors anticipate that over a third of lone parents on JSA will opt for the voluntary NDLP. There is no evidence for this. It is very unclear what DWP thinks might happen after 18 months to 2 years on JSA, as witnessed by pages 25-26 of the SSAC consultation document. NDLP won't be "available" during year 2 because the second year JSA is a year of privatised services. Was there felt to be no need for a plan for Year 3 on JSA ?

We hope the authors might be asked to explain the following apparently contradictory statements:

"The Adviser caseloading the lone parent during the Gateway will tailor the additional support available to help them comply with the increased expectations during this stage" [ p.25-26]

"the FND Gateway period will be in place for all JSA customers from April 2010. Lone Parents will, therefore, enter this gateway rather than going onto an existing mandatory New Deal." [ p.26]

Unsurprisingly, the authors say [4.42, p.25 ] "Government is still at the planning stage" and [4.43, p.26 ] that "legislative changes will be required to support the proposals and these will be presented to SSAC later this year." May we ask when the Department will be ready to share more about this ?

Some Background Information About Home Education And Home Educated Children

Home education is a legal option under section 7 of the 1996 Education Act. Home educating families receive no funding and bear the entire cost of education themselves. For every child in school the Government pays an average of 5,000 per capita funding a year to the school. When the child is home educated this money is retained by central Government. There are around 40,000 home educated children in England and Wales. Home educators come from all walks of life. Some home educated children have never been to school but an increasing number are coming to home education after the school system has been tried and found wanting. School bullying and unmet special educational needs are two of the reasons often given for families turning to home education. Some home educated children with SEN have a formal diagnosis or statement of special educational needs but many others do not, because of the cost implications for the local authority in providing the requirements set out in the statement. There is little point in the parent of the home educated children outside the system attempting to obtain a statement or diagnosis since any additional support would only be delivered through the school system. In addition, the diagnostic process can be lengthy traumatic and expensive. For this reason and many others the diagnosis of SEN is under-represented among the home educated cohort and some families have expressed great concern to Education Otherwise that this will not be understood by JobCentre personnel.

Education Otherwise is the largest and longest established home education support organisation in the United Kingdom with over 4,000 member families.

Education Otherwise Association Limited
Registered Charity No. 1055120
A company limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales , No. 01917107

Enquiry Address: PO Box 325, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, PE34 3XW
Registered Office Address: 41 St Mary's Street, Ely,
Cambridgeshire CB7 4HF

Food for Thought:
Home Education for Teenagers

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