email to my MP about changes to benefits for parents child age 1 to 3


Email I just sent to my MP using https://www.writetothem.com/ 

Dear Paul

I am writing to ask if you would be able to speak to clause 15 on my behalf at the Second Reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill next Tuesday July 21st.

You’ll be aware that the usual reason why I get in touch is to do with home education, and this is no exception.

A lot of home educators have contacted me through my blog and website and also through social media telling me of their fear that they will be prevented from home educating once the proposed changes in clause 15 come into effect.

Clause 15 is Universal Credit: work-related requirements.

Under clause 15, parents will have to attend courses from when their youngest child is aged 1 and once their child reaches age 3 they will have to prove to the JobCentre that they are spending a great deal of time each week applying for jobs. If they are deemed to fall short of any of these requirements, money will be stopped from their benefits.

(There are additional fears about the effects of the lowered cut-off for Tax Credits and the higher taper, but these don’t seem to be mentioned in the Bill so I don’t know whether they would fall within the scope of a Second Reading debate)

Obviously, all low-income families will be affected by the reductions to Tax Credits etc outlined in clauses 9-12 and I expect you will already be receiving a lot of correspondence about this.

However, it is clause 15 which will make home education virtually impossible for low income families.

Clause 15 has 2 parts.

15 Universal credit: work-related requirements
(1) In Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (claimant responsibilities)—
(a) in section 20(1)(a) (claimants subject to work-focused interview requirement only), for the words from “at least 1” to “3)” substitute “1”;
(b) in section 21(1) (claimants subject to work preparation requirement) after paragraph (a) (but before the “or” immediately after it) insert—
“(aa) the claimant is the responsible carer for a child who is
aged 2,”;
(c) omit section 21(5) (claimants of prescribed description to include responsible carers of children aged 3 or 4).
(2) In the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 (S.I. 2013/376)—
(a) in regulation 91 (claimants subject to work-focused interview
requirement only), omit paragraph (1);
(b) regulation 91A (claimants subject to work preparation requirement) is
revoked.

The first part affects parents of children between 1 and 3.

Under the new rules as soon as a child reaches age 1, parents of low-income households claiming an in-work or out-of-work subsidy – including lone parents and parents of children with special needs and disabilities – will have to comply with ‘a work preparation requirement’ (also known as ‘work related activity’)

Claimants in the work preparation/work related activity group can’t be made to apply for jobs, but if they fail to carry out the work related activity they can be sanctioned by the Jobcentre and lose a proportion of their benefits. The requirements – which are at the discretion of the JobCentre – are written down in an Action Plan which the claimant signs as a condition of receiving benefit and may include attending courses, doing voluntary work, or undertaking other mandatory work-related activity. The parent has to negotiate with the JobCentre as to what is an acceptable amount of time to spend on work preparation.

At the moment this does not kick in until the child reaches age 3, as Child Poverty Action Group explains here
http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/work-related-activity-lone-parents

The second element of clause 15 affects parents of children over the age of 3.

At present, parents of children between 3 and 5 are subject to a work preparation requirement (ie the same work preparation requirement which it is now being proposed to apply to parents of 1 year olds)

This arises from the Welfare Reform Act 2012 section 20 and section 21 as modified by Regulation 91A which applies to Income Support and Universal Credit.

Under the new rules regulation 91A is revoked.

The effect of this is that instead of a ‘work preparation requirement’ when the youngest child is 3, the claimant will be required actively to look for work, because the same conditions will apply as currently apply to parents whose youngest child is 5.

In other words, as soon as a child reaches age 3, parents of low-income households claiming an in-work or out-of-work subsidy – including lone parents and parents of children with special needs and disabilities – will have to comply with ‘all work requirements’ which means that they will have to demonstrate to the JobCentre that they are actively seeking, and are available for, work.

There is no specific commencement date for clause 15 so it defaults to ‘such day or days as the
Secretary of State may by regulations appoint.’

In his Budget speech, the Chancellor said that requiring parents of 3 year olds to apply for jobs would take effect from September 2017 when the Government would be introducing up to 30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds (via the Childcare Bill http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/childcare.html)

It is worth noting that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has recently ripped into the Childcare Bill which began in the House of Lords and is now awaiting a date for Report. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldselect/lddelreg/12/12.pdf

My concern is that parents will be told by JobCentre staff that the younger children will have to go into nursery while the older children will have to go into school.

References
Welfare Reform and Work Bill
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2015-2016/0051/16051.pdf
Child Poverty Action Group Work Related Activity Lone Parents
http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/work-related-activity-lone-parents
Childcare Bill
http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/childcare.html
Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee criticm of the Childcare Bill
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldselect/lddelreg/12/12.pdf

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2 thoughts on “email to my MP about changes to benefits for parents child age 1 to 3

  1. happyhema

    I was told by the job centre, when my son was 6 months old and exclusively breastfed I still hadn’t healed from a difficult birth and we were homeless staying in my mum’s living room, that l was a bad mother, I had no business breastfeeding and my son should be on a bottle in nursery full time, I should be doing 40 hours a week on the supermarket checkouts and the postgraduate qualification I was still managing to study for despite dire circumstances was a waste of time because as a single mum I’d never use it.

    I don’t claim income support now and haven’t for about 6 years, but currently I couldn’t get by without housing benefit and tax credits. I don’t want to be reliant on them and I’m doing my best to change our circumstances but we don’t just fit into the nice little box they want us to.

    I work 24 hours a day every single day, i budget well to give us a good life on very little money (I don’t claim everything I’m entitled to) and i cost the government far less than the average family qualifying for tax credits. In fact if i went out to work for an employer and put the children in school my family would cost the taxpayer thousands more per year, but as it wouldn’t be called ‘benefits’ that would be much better. As far as they’re concerned I’m a lazy scrounger who’s poor because I can’t be bothered to turn off Jeremy Kyle, I’m too stupid to know what’s best for my family and I fritter away my money (hmm, £39 breakfast anyone?).

    I have no doubts whatsoever that should I have to beg the job centre staff for access to these benefits through universal credit that I will be similarly belittled and told that my children should be in school and nursery. That would be polite in comparison to other things they’ve said to me.

    Oh, and the lone parent advisor actually told my mum all about me when she went in for an interview to come off of JSA (she works 3 jobs, has no dependents and still can’t find the hours they are wanting parents with young kids to do). Not realising that we were related she gossiped about us! She told her that this silly young single mum with a kid who ran riot used to come in, that she actually thought she could get herself off of income support without the job centre’s finding her suitable employment by going self employed but that they’d thought she was silly and told her so. She said that this mum hadn’t yet come back with her tail between her legs so had probably found a bloke to support her as they couldn’t see her actually succeeding. Mum didn’t let them know that she knew exactly who they were talking about!

    I’m dreading having to set foot in the job centre again and I’m applying for freelance work that I can do overnight at home – I’m wasting something like 4-6 hours a night sometimes just laying in bed. There are my 35 hours right there; surely sleep is a luxury that bone idle lone parents like me can’t afford.

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      I now realise that just saying ‘JobCentre advisors will tell them to put youngest in nursery and older children in school’ doesn’t adequately convey the axe that’s hanging over someone’s head, unless you’ve been there yourself. It’s absolutely horrible even when you know that ultimately the law backs you up and you can’t be made to give up home ed and if they do stop your money you can appeal etc, but if the law changes…The pitch before the election to hard working striving whatever seemed to be ‘we agree it’s not fair that people get something for nothing while you have to work hard…’ ie I think people voted for cuts to someone ELSE.

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