Welfare Reform — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:04 pm on 10th December 2008.

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Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government) 4:04 pm, 10th December 2008

My Lords, on the first point, the proposals that we have previously discussed and which are being put in train are for lone parents whose youngest child has reached the age of seven to engage with the labour market. The change that we are dealing with in the White Paper is for those lone parents with younger children to prepare for work, and we are going to pilot some of those arrangements. The proposal is that that would engage where lone parents have their youngest child between the ages of three and six, so it would exclude the very young children to whom the noble Lord refers.

The issue of encouraging all parents to work if they wish to seems to me to be important. It seems right that we facilitate the opportunity, whether it is one parent or two parents who wish to work, for there to be good quality childcare provision. At the end of the day, the issue is, if there is reliance on the benefit system, who should engage with it. That is why, as part of these proposals, we are seeking broader engagement for situations where there is a couple, perhaps one of whom, sometimes the one who would need to engage least with conditionality, makes the claim. We want, in a sense, to reverse that process.