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Changes to income support for lone parents 15 February 2013

The Department will shortly be seeking Tynwald approval to changes which will mean that lone parents with older children will no longer qualify for income support simply because they are a lone parent. The changes will require lone parents to look for work once the child reaches the age of 12 rather than 16 and also that lone parents whose children are aged between 5 and 11 will have to attend work-focused interviews when they first claim income support, in order to be entitled to benefit. They will then be required to attend work-focused interviews every 6 months.

Minister for Social Care, Hon Chris Robertshaw MHK said:

“Currently, a lone parent who has at least one child under the age of 16 can claim income support purely on the basis they are a lone parent. They don’t have to look for work, or even to prepare for work, to qualify for their benefit. This is unfair, especially when the vast majority of lone parents whose children are at secondary school are in work. Once a lone parent’s youngest child has reached the age of 12, and is attending a secondary school, they should no longer qualify for income support on this basis. Instead they should be expected to look for work.
Lone parents will be supported to find work both through financial support from my Department and the Jobsearch services provided by the Department of Economic Development. In the vast majority of circumstances, lone parents claiming income support would be better off in work.
Following these changes any lone parents who will lose entitlement to income support will be eligible to claim jobseeker’s allowance whilst they are looking for work. If they are not fit for work they can claim incapacity benefits. A lone parent with an older child who is severely disabled will be able to continue to qualify for income support, but on the basis that they are a carer, rather than a lone parent.”

Lone parents receiving income support whose youngest, or only child, is aged between 5 and 11 will be required to attend a work-focused interview every 6 months to maintain their full entitlement. Lone parents who make a new claim for income support will have to attend a work-focused interview before they can be awarded benefit and must also attend work-focused interviews every 6 months after that.

Work-focused interviews are intended to help lone parents prepare for work and to be aware of the support they can get if they do get a job, including financial support in the form of Employed Person’s Allowance from the Department of Social Care. During the interviews they will also be given information about the jobsearch services provided by the Department of Economic Development, such as the Jobcentre, Jobclub and training opportunities.

Following Tynwald approval it is proposed the changes they will come into effect on 1st April 2013.

Any lone parents receiving income support at that time whose youngest or only child is already aged 12 or over, and who would otherwise lose their entitlement immediately, can continue to qualify for income support as a lone parent until 1st October 2013. The Department will be writing to all lone parents affected by these changes.

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