Page last updated at 00:57 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Jobless lone parents 'pressured'

Single parents say there is little help for them at Jobcentres

Jobless single parents are unfairly being put under pressure to return to work by the government, a charity says.

New welfare rules mean 68,000 single parents whose youngest child is aged 10 or over will now get Jobseeker's Allowance instead of Income Support.

Lone-parent charity Gingerbread says it means they face benefit cuts if they do not look for work but ministers have not kept promises to help them do so.

Ministers said the New Deal for Lone Parents and other changes had done so.

Since 2008 single parents aged over 18 whose youngest child is aged 12 or more have received the Jobseeker's Allowance - currently £64.30.

Single parents

175,000 single parents will be moved onto Jobseeker's Allowance by the end of the year

By 2011, 270,000 single parents will be forced to look for work

The employment rate among single parents is 56.7%

Claimants are questioned every fortnight about their attempts to find work. After 13 weeks their entitlement to the benefit is reviewed.

Now this applies to parents whose youngest child is aged 10 or more and by 2011 all single parents whose youngest child is seven or older will be moved to Jobseeker's Allowance.

Gingerbread interviewed 34 single parents before and after they were moved to Jobseeker's Allowance in 2008.

The charity said it found many Jobcentres were failing to help single parents find suitable work or offer the right training.

Chief executive Fiona Weir said: "The government promised single parents more support in return for tough work search conditions but the back up just isn't there."

Ms Weir said many single parents, who had been away from work for many years, were being put "under intense pressure" to find work by ministers who did not "recognise the real-world constraints that make it hard for them to find and keep a job".

She said: "The extra obligations are there but the support is woefully inadequate.

"Real, tailored help for single parent job-seekers must be built into the system from day one, otherwise it starts to look very much like a one-sided deal."

Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper agreed it was "essential" that single parents got the support they needed.

But she said: "We're making it easier for parents to look for jobs that fit with school hours - both through regulations and developing changes to Jobcentres too.

"But parents also need extra support and welfare reforms must be family friendly too.

"That's why we're increasing employment support through schools and children's centres as well as through the New Deal for Lone Parents."

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