HC Deb 03 May 2001 vol 367 cc791-2W
Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many lone parents on Income Support have a youngest child aged(a) between five and eight, (b) between nine and 12 and (c) between 13 and 15 years; [160236]

(2) when personal adviser meetings for lone parents whose youngest child is below the age of five years will be introduced; [160233]

(3) how many personal advisers for the New Deal for Lone Parents there have been in each month since the scheme began; and how many additional advisers have been employed to deal with the start of compulsory interviews; [160235]

(4) what sanctions will be imposed upon lone parents who fail to attend the compulsory personal adviser meetings. [160234]

Mr. Bayley

The full national New Deal for Lone Parents programme has been in operation since October 1998, after being piloted from July 1997. By the end of February 2001, 86,161 lone parents have obtained jobs through the programme and a further 24,104 have entered education and training. From April 2001 further support is being provided for lone parents taking up training or part-time jobs, including help with child care costs.

To ensure that as many lone parents as possible are aware of the help and support available to help them move into work, compulsory personal adviser meetings have been introduced from 30 April for lone parents claiming Income Support whose youngest child is of school age. Personal adviser meetings will be extended to lone parents with a youngest child of below five years old in some areas from October 2001 and then nationally from April 2002.

Personal adviser meetings are a condition of claiming Income Support. If a lone parent fails, without good cause, to participate in a personal adviser meeting when making a claim to Income Support, then the claim will not be processed. If a lone parent making a claim has received payment of Income Support because the meeting was deferred, but then fails to participate without good cause, Income Support will be withdrawn. If a lone parent is already receiving Income Support and fails without good cause to participate in the meeting, their Income Support will be reduced by 20 per cent. of the amount applicable for a single person aged not less than 25 years old. We do not expect to have to apply these sanctions very often. Personal Advisers will make several attempts to ensure that lone parents fully understand how important these meetings are before taking any action that will affect benefits.

Personal advisers are an essential element of the New Deal for Lone Parents service. Figures are not kept in the format requested but, since the national launch of the New Deal for Lone Parents, resources have been allocated for around 800 full-time staff. To support the delivery of personal adviser meetings, resources will be allocated for a further 450 staff by the end of 2001–02.

Personal Adviser meetings will be gradually rolled out to lone parents currently claiming Income Support over the next few years. The latest Income Support Quarterly Statistical Enquiry (November 2000) estimates that there are 77,800 lone parents with a youngest child of 13 to 15 years old claiming Income Support. There are a further 150,500 lone parents claiming Income Support with a youngest child of nine to 12 years old and 214,100 with a youngest child of five to eight years old1.

Since May 1997 the number of lone parents dependent on Income Support has fallen by over 100,000. The choices we are offering lone parents are building on this success and helping more of them move from benefit dependence into work. 1 The estimates are based on a sample of cases, and are therefore subject to a degree of sampling error. Figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. Lone Parents are defined as single claimants who have dependants but do not receive the disability or pensioner premium.

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