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Lone parents have to register for Jobseekers Allowance rather than claim income support, in a bid to get them back to work

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New welfare rules coming into effect today will mean lone parents with children aged 10 or over, must register for Jobseekers Allowance rather than claim income support, as part of a Government drive to get more people back to work.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said this gives lone parents a means of getting help to look for work rather than stay on benefits.

New Government regulations will also make clear they can look for part-time work or jobs that fit with school hours to ensure family-friendly welfare reforms.

But single parents' charity Gingerbread claims the Government is not providing the support parents were promised

On Jobseekers Allowance single parents will benefit from opportunities, job application advice, interviews with specialist advisers and other financial grants to help them return to work. 

And according to the DWP, they will also receive advice on childcare, benefits and part-time or family-friendly working from specialist advisers through the New Deal for Lone Parents, which has already helped over 600,000 parents into work. Lone parents with a health condition or disability, which limits their capability for work, will be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Secretary of state for work and pensions Yvette Cooper said: "Already 80% of all lone parents are either working or would like to work. And we know it's much better for families if parents can work. That's why we are changing the rules for parents with older children in school to help them find work.

"But parents also need extra support and welfare reforms must be family-friendly too. That's why we're increasing employment support through schools and children's centres as well as through the New Deal for Lone Parents. It's essential that everyone gets the personal help and advice they need on things like childcare and training.

"Many parents also want to work part-time so they can pick their kids up from school or make sure they do their homework. So we're making it easier for parents to look for jobs that fit with school hours - both through regulations and developing changes to Jobcentres too."

But Fiona Weir, chief executive of Gingerbread, said: "The Government promised single parents more support in return for tough work-search conditions but the back-up just isn't there.  Single parents are being hurried through a sign-on system that puts them under intense pressure yet doesn't recognise the real-world constraints that make it hard for them to find and keep a job."
 
"The extra obligations are there but the support is woefully inadequate. Real, tailored help for single parent jobseekers must be built into the system from day one of a claim, otherwise it starts to look very much like a one-sided deal."

"From today thousands more single parents with older children will go through Jobcentre Plus doors and on to Jobseekers allowance.  They need a system that recognises their parenting role and that builds rather than erodes their self-confidence and their skills for work."

The charity is calling on Government to ensure there is active and tailored support available to single parents from day one of a jobseekers allowance claim.   Parents' right to regular one-to-one meetings with a specialist New Deal for Lone Parents Adviser must be upheld.

But Working Families has welcomed Cooper's proposal that employers may be asked to make more jobs available part-time; and the suggestion that Ministers are considering extending flexible working legislation to cover future employers as well as current ones.  Chief Executive Sarah Jackson says: "It is great that the government is recognising the value that families put on time together, which often constrains the kind of jobs which parents can take on.  Most parents who are job-seeking, are looking for part-time work.  But there are far fewer part-time jobs available than there are part-time jobseekers.  So new ideas to help employers fill their vacancies by creating more family-shaped jobs will help everybody.
 
"Most jobs are advertised full-time, but we found1 when we tried phoning round that many employers are very willing to consider part-time or job-share applications.   If those same jobs were advertised as suitable for flexible working, it could open up a much wider pool of candidates.  It's a real waste of time and talent, to restrict a post to full-time jobseekers only.  If employers who advertise via jobcentres can be helped to rethink how jobs are designed, ultimately this will be a real win-win-win, for employers, parents and the economy as a whole."