HC Deb 28 April 2003 vol 404 cc190-1W
Mr. Dismore

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on the reasons given by lone parents in Hendon for(a) declining to participate in New Deal and (b) failing to retain employment obtained (i) through New Deal and (ii) otherwise; [109026]

(2) what barriers to work he has identified as facing lone parents in Hendon; what he plans to do to overcome those barriers; and if he will make a statement. [109027]

Mr. Nicholas Brown

Research carried out to investigate the labour market participation of lone parents in London found that the three top barriers to employment were availability and cost of child care, concerns about financial uncertainty in moving from benefit into work and cost of housing and council tax to a lone a parent in work.

Informal feedback is that lone parents in Hendon are reporting similar concerns as those identified by the research.

The New Deal for Lone Parents offers advice and support tailored to the individual needs of each lone parent which takes account of any particular problems they face because of the area they live in.

There are currently two New Deal for Lone Parents advisers working full-time at Hendon Jobcentre. Both work in outreach in the community and have surgeries at Hendon and Edgware Social Security offices. The local Jobcentre Plus district has a marketing strategy focused on lone parents which has included job fairs with children's activities, school breakfast clubs and outreach surgeries.

The combination of the child care component of our new Tax Credits and the extra places created through our National Childcare Strategy are making child care affordable and accessible for parents moving into work. Lone Parents can also benefit from payments of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit at pre-work levels for four weeks following starting work to help them through what can be a difficult transition period. Combined with the national minimum wage and working tax credits, we are making work possible and making work pay.

In addition, the Budget announced a number of measures to help overcome barriers to work, including Discovery Week pilots to boost and increase the familiarity of lone parents with the help and support available to them. From 2004 we will also introduce a new mentoring service across the country tailored specifically for lone parents; and from April 2004 child care tester pilots to allow lone parents to test whether formal child care suits their needs.