Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Government response to EO Lone Parent Petition

"We received a petition asking:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to permit home educating lone parents to remain on Income Support.”

Details of Petition:

“Lone parents have additional caring responsibilities and make a vital contribution to society raising and educating children who for one reason or another do not fit into the state system. Home education is not a lifestyle choice; for home educated children it is quite literally a lifeline. Every home educated child saves the Government £5,000 a year in school funding. On JSA hundreds of children will be plunged into poverty.The weekly family income will be cut by up to £60 a week. Sufficient appropriate affordable childcare is not available in order for home educating lone parents to work outside the home. Home educating lone parents want to work as soon as they are able to do so. Home educating lone parents should have access to a full range of support for return to employment, but increased conditionality and compulsion will only ruin vulnerable children’s lives, which surely was not the Government’s intention.”

While the Government recognises that lone parents have the right to home educate their children it does not provide funding for them to do so. Lone parents who currently receive Income Support are eligible for that benefit on the grounds that they have sole responsibility for the upbringing of a child, not because they are educating their children at home. A parent who chooses to do so must be prepared to accept that they are responsible for all of the costs associated with that decision.

Our proposal is that, subject to the passage of regulations, new obligations will be introduced for lone parents when their youngest child reaches 12 and over from November 2008; 10 and over from October 2009; and 7 and over from October 2010. At those stages lone parents will no longer be eligible to claim Income Support based solely on being a lone parent, and may claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or another appropriate benefit instead.

A lone parent choosing to home educate their children will not necessarily lose entitlement to benefits, though they will be required to demonstrate that they are seeking work. When making a claim for JSA, a lone parent will establish a Jobseeker’s Agreement setting out what they will do to obtain paid work but this will be tailored to their circumstances. Therefore the Agreement can contain restrictions on availability for paid work, for example, due to caring responsibilities or the need to restrict availability for work to school hours.

In order to safeguard the welfare of children the draft proposals for regulations include a further safety net, to give Jobcentre Plus additional discretion so that a lone parent who is claiming JSA will not be penalised if they leave a job, or fail to take up a job, because appropriate, affordable childcare is not available. They will need to demonstrate that they have made genuine efforts to locate such childcare, but this will provide home educators with protection if local services that meet their needs are not available.

Under the JSA arrangements lone parents will continue to have access to a range of pre-employment support such as the New Deal for Lone Parents. Provision will also be available to lone parents on entering work, including financial support measures to ease the transition from being on benefit to moving to employment in the first months of a job."

As seen here...

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