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Lone Parents

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Security – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th January 1999.

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Photo of Brian Iddon Brian Iddon Labour, Bolton South East 12:00 am, 11th January 1999

What plans he has for the training made available to lone parents. [63183]

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

The new deal for lone parents is the first attempt that any Government have made to help lone parents to join the labour market. We recognise that training can play a key part, especially for those who have never been in work or who have been away from the labour market for a long time. That is why lone parents have immediate access to Government-sponsored training courses through the Employment Service, training and enterprise councils or further education colleges.

Photo of Brian Iddon Brian Iddon Labour, Bolton South East

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. We have had joined-up thinking and joined-up talking, but the new deal executive board in Bolton would like joined-up action. By that, I mean that if we are to encourage lone parents to take advantage of the training opportunities, child care facilities need to be in place sooner rather than later. Will my hon. Friend comment on that?

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

My hon. Friend is right, but he must also recognise that, when one is starting from a standing position, it takes time to set up the national child care strategy, valued at £455 million, which will be coming on stream. Lone parents are already taking up the opportunities that the new deal is offering.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Conservative, Vale of York

At the last Social Security Question Time, the Secretary of State said that there would be an element of compulsion in the scheme. I subsequently had some correspondence from Baroness Hollis, who said that there will be no compulsion. If the scheme is to work, there must be an element of compulsion. Are the Government saying one thing to this House and something else to the other place?

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

No, I assure the hon. Lady that we certainly are not saying one thing to another place and something else to this Chamber. I think that she is mixing up the new deal for lone parents, which I emphasise is not compulsory, with policy work on the formation of the single gateway. As the hon. Lady and the House will know, pilot schemes will be established in July this year to set up a single gateway into the benefits system, and under those schemes an interview before one applies for benefits will be compulsory.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

Will the hon. Lady therefore tell us what the sanctions will be in respect of the compulsory element? Will there be a withdrawal of benefits, a withdrawal of benefits for a time, or a stiff note from the Secretary of State? Is The Sunday Times accurate in reporting that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment are keen that the compulsory element should not only apply to the initial interview, but extend to the subsequent interviews?

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Social Security)

A Bill will be put before the House, the details of which can be considered, especially in Committee. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that attendance at an interview will be a condition for receiving benefit in the single gateway pilot areas.