Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Lone parents in new benefits trial

A woman and a child walking outside
Lone parents will be able to get jobs of less than 16 hours a week

Lone parents wanting to work will be able to earn up to £50 a week without losing benefits, under a trial scheme unveiled by the government.

Currently they can only earn £20 a week before losing income support.

Lone parents will also get help with training and work experience while their children are at nursery.

The Conservatives questioned the scheme saying it was "counterproductive to force lone parents to take part under the threat of benefit cuts".

"Our work programme would offer personalised support to lone parents to help them find a job that fits in with their family life," a Conservative spokesman said.

Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper said that helping parents into jobs so they can support their families was "the best way to lift children out of poverty".

She added: "We know that around 80% of lone parents are already working or would like to work. We want to help them do that in a way that also supports their family life."

From October 2010 parents of children aged between three and six in South London, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Tees Valley will be able to take part in the scheme.

Qualifying parents will be able to work up to 16 hours a week before losing benefits, but in return will be expected to undertake specific activities set by advisers, under the Progression to Work Pathfinders scheme.

Lone parents on Income Support will be eligible. Partners of Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants will also be able to apply.

A spokesman for the Department of Work And Pensions said the aim was to ensure the right balance was struck between employment and the family.

The plan is extend the project to the rest of Britain once the trials have been completed.

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