HC Deb 08 July 2002 vol 388 cc764-5W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what(a) financial and (b) non-financial assistance is given to single parents; and what proposals the Government have to increase levels of support; [66356]

(2) what help is given to single parents to (a) re-enter work and (b) enter education. [66357]

Malcolm Wicks

[holding answer 3 July 2002]The Government believe that work is the best route out of poverty and research has shown that nine out of ten lone parents want to work, either now or in the future. Lone parents face problems on moving into work due to balancing their work life with their caring responsibilities. That is why we are providing extra help to reduce these inequalities and offer lone parents a range of choices to gain more independence by moving into work.

We have introduced measures to make work pay, including the working families' tax credit and the national minimum wage. From 2003 a lone parent working 16 hours a week will have a guaranteed minimum income of £179 a week. We have also provided help to make work possible for lone parents through the child care tax credit and the national child care strategy, which since 1997 has created new places for the benefit of more than 900,000 children.

The New Deal for Lone Parents is available to all lone parents and offers a personalised service of advice and guidance. Personal advisers help with identifying child care, give advice on work and training opportunities and continue to offer in-work support once the lone parent is in work. Nearly 300,000 lone parents so far have participated in the programme and over half have found work. The programme now offers greater training flexibility by funding work-focused courses in skills that will be of benefit in the labour market, such as basic IT skills. In addition, everyone who joins any of the New Deal programmes is now assessed for literacy and numeracy needs and offered high quality learning opportunities.

We are continuing to roll out compulsory personal adviser meetings for lone parents claiming income support to ensure that they are aware of the range of help and support we have introduced to enable them to move into work. Our new Jobcentre Plus offices are providing an integrated service to ensure that lone parents receive the benefits they are entitled to and the help they need to move into work.

The Government are encouraging everyone with the necessary qualifications, including lone parents, to enter further and higher education. For further education institutions in England1 we have increased the ring-fenced budget for child care funds by 20 per cent. to £36 million in 2002–03. In higher education in England1, lone parents have access to a range of support including child care grants, a grant for school meals and a grant towards travel, books and equipment.

1 Further and higher education arrangements in Scotland and Wales may differ from those in England.

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