The trick to understanding our complicated benefits system is to appreciate that everyone has to do something in order to receive state money. Until recently single parents have been able to claim state support (Income Support) in return for bringing up their children to the age of 16.
The Welfare Reforms have changed this position and now lone parents may only claim Income Support until their youngest child is aged 5 years old.
A range of new initiatives have been introduced to lead lone parents in to this new regime. For example parents are being called in to Work Focused Interviews more regularly and Options and Choices events are being held to pass on information about the changes.
So what does happen when the youngest child is 5? Well obviously the Government hopes that lone parents will then get a job and will support themselves and their children. But what if this is not possible?
No longer entitled to benefits on the strength of bringing up children, lone parents are now required to join the ranks of the general ‘unemployed’ and to claim Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA). This means ‘signing on’ every two weeks and thereby declaring:
- that they are available for work AND
- that they are actively seeking work.
This is because the state will only support them if they are genuinely job seeking.
Although the majority of lone parents will be affected by these changes there are some exemptions, examples include:
- Where a child /children are entitled to the middle or higher rate of Disabled Living Allowance
- Where the parent gets Carer’s Allowance
- Where the parent is fostering
- Where the parent is claiming benefits on health grounds.
In addition, at the last Work Focused Interview before Income Support ends the adviser should consider whether or not the lone parent has any health condition which would prevent her/him working even if no health related benefit is in place.
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