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Welfare Reform Update from Education Otherwise May 2010

The Department of Work and Pensions is responsible for introducing and administering the changes to the benefit system. The DWP home page may be found here.

The Welfare Reform page is here.

Modified Jobseeker's Allowance for Lone Parents

Please note that although lone parents are being moved to JSA, the JSA regime has been modified to take account of the caring responsibilities of all parents who have children living in their household. At the start of the JSA claim, lone parents will sign an agreement to say they will look for a job. "Looking for a job" involves activities such as keeping an eye on the Job Bank at the JobCentre and applying for relevant posts advertised in the local and national press as well as conducting online job searches. For lone parents, the job does not have to be more than 16 hours a week. Lone parents are entitled to refuse a job offer or to leave a job if there is no appropriate or affordable childcare.

Home Educating Lone Parents

The regulations for home educating lone parents are the same as for all other lone parents. However, Education Otherwise has been involved in high level stakeholder discussions with the Department of Work and Pensions and the guidance prepared for JobCentre staff says that home educators should be treated sensitively, not least because home educating lone parents will have to take their children to the JobCentre and it is important that the children do not become distressed.

Staff at the JobCentre should not suggest using school or older siblings for childcare purposes so that the home educating lone parent can take a job. Nor should staff at the JobCentre suggest that children may be left alone while the parent goes out to work. If there is no appropriate affordable childcare, the home educating lone parent is entitled to turn down a job offer or to leave the current employment.

"Home education is a full time job"

Home educating lone parents who take the view that home education is a full time job and that therefore the parent is not in any conceivable circumstances available for paid work will not meet the requirements of Jobseeker's Allowance.

Home educators who refuse to consider any options for childcare in order to be available for work will not meet the requirements of Jobseeker's Allowance.

Essential reading

Please read this guide from the Department of Work and Pensions.

The DWP Lone Parent Pack includes information on the following:

1. Background
2. Changes to Jobseeker’s Allowance for all parents
3. Timetable for moving lone parents off Income Support
4. Changes for specific groups
5. Other payments and deductions
6. Process for ending Income Support
7. Telling lone parents about the changes
Annex 1 – Support package
Annex 2 – Timetable of changes
Annex 3 – Phase 2 Voluntary Interview Letters
Annex 4 – Phase 3 Voluntary Interview Letters
Annex 5 – Phase 2 Mailshot Letters
Annex 6 – Phase 3 Mailshot Letters
Annex 7 – Useful information and links

The Scope of the Proposed Measures

Social Security (Lone Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations were made on November 23rd 2008 and came into force on Monday November 24th 2008.

This is the link - http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2008/uksi_20083051_en_1 - for the new regulations, which were brought in under Statutory Instrument 3051 of 2008.

Changes which have already happened

New and repeat claimants for Income Support with a child over age 12 were immediately affected from this date and were no longer eligible to claim Income Support solely on the grounds of being a lone parent. Instead they were entitled to claim a specially modified form of Jobseeker's Allowance for lone parents. The main requirement of JSA is to "seek work for no less than 16 hours a week."

From October 2009 lone parents were no longer entitled to Income Support as new claimants if they had a child over the age of 10. Please check the tables on pages 19-22 of the DWP Lone Parent Pack.

Changes which are still to be implemented: loss of entitlement to Income Support when youngest child is 7

The key dates are October 2010 and April 2011. The difference between new claimants and existing claimants will be reconciled by April 2011.

Youngest child reaches age 10 between October 2009 and October 2010

Lone parents who are currently on Income Support and whose youngest child reaches the age of 10 before June 6th 2010 will cease to be entitled to Income Support from June 7th 2010. Lone parents who are currently on Income Support and whose youngest child reaches the age of 10 between June 7th and October 26th will cease to be entitled to Income Support on the week following the child's 10th birthday.

Please see Phase 2b from the table on page 20 of the DWP Lone Parent Pack for further details

From October 2010 existing claimants on Income Support will only be able to continue claiming if their youngest child is under the age of 9.

From October 2010 lone parents with a child over the age of 7 will no longer be entitled to Income Support as new claimants.

From April 2011 existing claimants on Income Support will no longer be able to claim Income Support once their youngest child is over the age of 7.

Written notice of ceasing entitlement to Income Support

Income Support claimants will receive mailshot letters advising them of the changes to their benefit entitlement. Sample letters can be found in the Department of Work and Pensions guidance here, which is linked from the main DWP page.

Jobcentre Plus will contact the lone parent 8 weeks before their Income Support is due to stop. They will tell them when their last payment will be and invite them to an interview with an adviser. The adviser will explain what they need to do to make a claim for another benefit. These interviews are voluntary but all lone parents are encouraged to attend in order to resolve questions about benefit entitlement.

Other possible options for home educating lone parents

This page is addressed to home educating lone parents who switch from Income Support to income- based Jobseeker's Allowance. However, some home educating lone parents begin part-time employment or self-employment of 16+ hours a week and are able to claim Working Tax Credit. More information about WTC may be found here and here.

Other lone parents on Income Support may find that their Lone Parent Advisor recommends they make a claim for Employment Support Allowance.

Home educating lone parents are not exempted from the new regulations but JSA claimants have "good cause" to turn down a job offer if appropriate affordable childcare is not available.

The only parents permitted to remain on Income Support will be those who receive Carer's Allowance. Entitlement to CA is only triggered by being the official carer for someone entitled to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at medium or high rate.

Education Otherwise is a professional member of Benefits and Work and specialist guides to claiming DLA and ESA are available on request to EO members.

The nuts and bolts of claiming Jobseeker's Allowance

The Department of Work and Pensions has produced an information pack with details about the changes to the benefit system. The links are here:

Income Support is paid weekly and JSA 2-weekly. At the start of the JSA claim, lone parents will be eligible to take out a repayable loan until they receive their first JSA payment.

At the start of a new claim for Jobseeker's Allowance, the claimant is required to attend an interview where the Jobseeker's Agreement will be drawn up and signed by the claimant.

Normally, JSA claimants are expected to sign on 2-weekly and have an Action Plan for seeking employment of at least 16 hours. This is called the "fortnightly job review" or FJR.

At the fortnightly signing-on or FJR, claimants are expected to indicate what activities they have undertaken in their quest for work. This could include writing a CV, speaking to a potential employer or going to a job interview. Claimants will also be asked to sign a statement saying that they have been looking for and are available for work, have been doing the things set out in the Jobseeker's Agreement and that nothing has changed that may affect the JSA payments.

The longer lone parents are on JSA, the more the employment services will step up attempts to get claimants to consider different jobs outside their preferred or specialist field and to investigate other childcare options etc. The first year will be in-house at the JobCentre but the second year will be with privatised employment services.

Jobseeker's Allowance personal element + Child Tax Credit

Jobseeker's Allowance is made up of the personal element and the Child Tax Credit element. Any sanctions to benefit made if the claimant does not comply with JSA requirements (for example by not attending mandatory interviews) will apply solely to the personal element of JSA, not to the Child Tax Credit. CTC replaces any payments for children made as part of the previous Income Support claim.

Appropriate Affordable Childcare

Lone parents will only be required to take employment if "appropriate affordable" childcare is available. A huge amount of discretion will be in the hands of Lone Parent Advisors in JobCentres. Education Otherwise had a last minute opportunity to review the guidance which the Department of Work and Pensions sends out to all JobCentres.

Welfare Reform Act 2009

In addition to the changes outlined above, new legislation in the Welfare Reform Act 2009 enables the Government to introduce increased conditionality for benefit claimants. We are monitoring the situation and will post advance notification of the implementation of the following changes.

Benefits and Tax Credits for home educating lone parents

Working Tax Credit

Citizens Advice Bureau Guide to Working Tax Credit
Tax Credits Guide for Self-Employment from Contact-a-Family

Child Tax Credit up to child age 20 if in full time education which includes home education

HMRC page on Child Tax Credit

Child Benefit

EO page on child benefit

Contact Details

For further information or feedback please contact Education Otherwise Government Policy Group or Education Otherwise Disability Group.

Food for Thought:
Home Education for Teenagers

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