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Fact Sheet 1: Extending work obligations for parents on a benefit

Fact Sheet 1 – Extending work obligations for parents on a benefit

From 1 April 2016:

• Most sole parents, and partners of beneficiaries, will have to look for part-time work when their youngest child turns three.

• Part-time work will be defined as work averaging 20 hours a week.

What is changing?

Part-time work obligations are being extended for:

• sole parents receiving the Sole Parent Support benefit, and

• people with children, whose partner is receiving Jobseeker Support, the Supported Living Payment or emergency benefits.

From 1 April 2016, part-time work obligations will apply when their youngest dependent child is aged from three to 13.

At present, part-time work obligations apply when their youngest child turns five. This change therefore affects around 18,000 sole parents and partners of beneficiaries with children aged three and four.

A part-time work obligation means a person has to, amongst other things:

• be available for part-time work and take reasonable steps to find that work

• accept any offer of suitable employment

• attend and participate in job interviews to which they are referred, and

• undertake activities to improve their work readiness and job prospects.

In addition, all beneficiaries with part-time work obligations will now be expected to find work for an average of 20 hours a week, rather than 15 hours a week under current requirements.

Case managers will continue to exercise some flexibility around the exact hours of work that are required, to match individual situations and job opportunities.

Work and Income will work with parents to help prepare them for these changes and will offer employment services and support.

Full-time work obligations will continue to apply when the youngest child turns 14.

No work obligations, either part-time or full-time, apply to sole parents on the Supported Living Payment.

What are the different types of benefit?

The main benefits for working-age people are:

Supported Living Payment – for people who are permanently and severely restricted in their ability to work because of a disability or illness.

Sole Parent Support – for sole parents with children aged under 14.

Jobseeker Support – for most other adults requiring a benefit, including sole parents whose youngest dependent child is aged 14 or over. Most people on Jobseeker Support are required to be looking for full-time work.

Emergency Benefit and Emergency Maintenance Allowance – for people in hardship who don’t qualify for another type of benefit.

Why are these new obligations being introduced?

For most families, the best way out of poverty is for parents to find sustainable, full-time work. The Government’s focus remains firmly on getting beneficiaries into employment, because a paid job offers a better future for those who are able to work, and better prospects for their children.

Around nine in every 10 beneficiary families are sole parent families. In 2012, the Government introduced work obligations for most sole parents, and partners of beneficiaries, which are:

• a full-time work obligation (30 hours a week), if their youngest child is aged 14 or over

• a part-time work obligation (15 hours a week), if their youngest child is aged five to 13, and

• a requirement to take all reasonable steps to prepare for future employment, if their youngest child is under five.

At the same time, the Government has invested in more intensive case management and employment assistance to help people move from a benefit into work.

As a result of this approach, together with a growing economy, the number of sole parents on a benefit has dropped considerably.

Making the part-time work obligation apply when their youngest child is three, rather than five, will increase the number of sole parents who are working.

Part-time work brings more income into a family, and is a stepping stone to full-time work and to going off a benefit altogether.

This change also lines up work requirements with childcare settings, as the 20 Hours ECE programme is available from age three. As a condition of their benefit, beneficiary parents are already expected to enrol their children in early childhood education at three years of age.

Increasing the part-time work obligation to 20 hours a week means a greater attachment to the workforce.

In addition, once sole parents are consistently working for 20 hours or more a week they can choose to go off the benefit altogether and instead get just as much financial support – and often more – through Working for Families.

More information

These changes will occur in April 2016 and, until then, payments and obligations are unaffected.

Work and Income will contact families affected by the changes in early 2016.

If people have questions about their own particular circumstances, or how they might be affected, they should call Work and Income on 0800 559 009.


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