Income Support: Lone Parents

Work and Pensions written question – answered at on 20 May 2008.

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Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(1) if he will exempt lone parents providing full-time home education for their children from the planned requirement that lone parents be actively seeking work to receive income support;

(2) what support will be available for lone parents providing full-time home education to their children when the requirement for such parents to be actively seeking work to receive income support comes into effect; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Employment and Welfare Reform)

Details of the Government's proposed changes to benefit conditionally for lone parents, together with a set of draft regulations, were presented to the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) on 7 May 2008. The Committee will shortly commence a public consultation exercise seeking views on the proposals from interested organisations before formally responding to the Secretary of State. After considering the SSAC report, the Government will respond on the arrangements for lone parents, including those who educate their children at home.

In the documentation provided to SSAC, the Government outlined their proposals on lone parents who educate their children at home. While recognising that lone parents can choose to do so, it is not the purpose of income support to fund them to educate their children at home. Therefore, the Government consider that they should be required to look for paid work when their youngest child reaches the relevant threshold age.

Lone parents who educate their children at home and who apply for jobseeker's allowance will need to fit in their home education activities around their obligations to look for work. Unlike lone parents who send their children to school, lone parents who choose to educate their children at home do not have to observe school hours, days or terms and may have greater flexibility to fit paid work around their children's education.

They may, however, need to find alternative care for their children when they undertake work related activities or take up a job. The draft regulations presented to SSAC also include an amendment to allow Jobcentre Plus advisers additional discretion so that a lone parent claiming or receiving jobseeker's allowance will not be penalised if they cannot access appropriate and affordable child care.

Does this answer the above question?

Yes4 people think so

No42 people think not

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Barbara Stark
Posted on 21 May 2008 1:09 pm (Report this annotation)

It is ridiculous to suggest that parents who educate their children at home and have the day to day care of their children are more available for work than foster carers, who are exempt, and parents of children who are excluded from school, who are also exempt from a requirement to seek paid employment. Parents educate their children at home for the well being of the child and in their best interests. It is not unusual for this to be literally a life saving measure. The education must by law be full time and the parents are therefore fully employed with caring and educational responsibilities. They may as a consequence not be available for paid employment and may therefore require a subsistence benefit whilst fulfilling their domestic responsibilities. To characterise this as a demand for financial assistance is completely disingenuous and an attempt to smear these parents as undeserving poor, skivers and scroungers.

Barbara Stark

Diane Varty
Posted on 21 May 2008 2:40 pm (Report this annotation)

I am deeply troubled at the apparent inability of Stephen Timms to understand that parents who home educate their children are in actuality LESS able to be flexible with their time than parents who abandon their own duty to educate their children to a failing school system. My children are now home educated, after a horrendous time at school when my eldest daughter was bullied during her stay at two separate schools and through years of attempting to get the schools to act, which has left her with a disposition to cry at anything reminding her of school and a complete lack of confidence. Is Stephen Timms really saying that I should take a job stacking shelves in Morrisons (despite my degree and years of education and training) and abandon my child to cry and attempt to heal herself alone?

Or maybe I should just sue both schools for their monumental neglect of their duty of care which would cost the taxpayer a hefty sum (much more than it would cost them to maintain my children and myself at home)?

How can the government treat the most vulnerable adults and innocent children in such a disgraceful manner?

Can the Minister possibly imagine what hardship and devastation these moves to 'force' people onto conditional benefits will ensue from this ill-thought-out cruelty? Probably not.

I will point out that home educators save this government a fortune in school place support and receive not a jot of funding from anyone. For taking up the right to educate my children myself, and home education has been found to produce a superior education in many cases, am I now to be punished for being a good mother and trying to do the best I can for my babies? Yes, I am.

While I am not against people working for a living, I do think that there are many things more important than money and the economic health of the nation. Children who are raised by interested and involved parents have been shown to thrive economically, socially and in all ways. Children's health and welfare are supposed to be dear to the government's heart. Let the government strive to remember that in future.

Diane Varty

Alan Tait
Posted on 21 May 2008 2:50 pm (Report this annotation)

What planet are this man and his government colleagues on?

No wonder the education system is in much a mess when it is run by someone who believes that a parent who educates their child (full time as they legally must) outside school (certainly not solely 'at home') has more flexibility than one who dumps their child in school for a large part of 5 days most weeks.

Deciding to home educate is never a trivial or easy one and is not only a great commitment in time and effort but also one with major financial implications as it stands now, particularly for lone parents. It is though often a lifesaver for the child who is either being bullied or inappropriately dealt with the one-size-fits-all system that for all the fake initiatives schooling still is.

This is an opportune attack on home education. Government, particularly the current one, cannot tolerate anything which diminishes it's chances to mould, monitor and control the young (and indeed the rest of us). Home education does that, by making it close to impossible for many people, lone parents being a particularly case, to home educate they can not only try to contain the accelerating rate at which HE is growing but also project it as a purely middle-class idealists pursuit.

HE is a valuable right, whether a parent chooses to use it or not. Ill-informed and/or malicious decisionmaking as this is should not be tolerated.

Andy Jones
Posted on 21 May 2008 5:46 pm (Report this annotation)

I am deeply concerned about the erosion of our legally enshrined right to educate our children otherwise than at school by removing financial support for their parents. This will either increase the number of families living in poverty (if they have benefit withdrawn) or lead to an increase in childhood suicides, mental illness and further loss of social cohesion.

Home educating parents already bear sole financial responsibilty for their decision, saving the government thousands of pounds per child per school place. We are already committed to providing a full-time education and 24 hour care for our children and it would be both impossible and impractical to be available for additional work.

Contrary to Mr Timms beliefs, home educating parents are NOT at home all day, we are out and about educating our children. Unlike school, we are not limited to providing education between 9 and 3.30 but are required at all times of day, as mentioned previously, this making us LESS available for work.

Children who are home educated grow into well-balanced and successful individuals who contribute greatly to society. Studies have shown that even those from lower socio-economic groupings fair better than their contemporaries from state school.

Maybe it is because home education is growing in popularity that the government sees it as a threat to their unpopular and failing model of education.

The government is seriously losing touch with the electorate here. The State-run education system is failing abysmally, report after report is confirming this. If members of parliament are supposed to represent the wishes of their electorate, they seriously need to do some self-evaluation and look at what they actually do stand for.

If this measure goes through, I for one will be looking at ways to mount a legal challenge to get it overturned. I will not sit idly by and watch MP's, who incidentally are supposed to be working for me not against me, push me and others like me further into poverty because you don't agree with or understand my choices.

T Cook
Posted on 21 May 2008 7:41 pm (Report this annotation)

I would like to say I agree with most of the things said in the previous comments, especially, as it strikes a cord with me over the problems why so many of us are having to home educate at the moment.

I speak as an ex teacher myself and I am appalled at what the government have done in the last two decades with the education system in this country.

Just to save money it has sold off all the schools which were of a decent size and made these huge comprehensives where children might as well have a number for all the care they are given. I know personally that many schools cannot even know if their attendees are even present in their schools.

In large comprehensives of over 1000 children it is the pack who rule. The children are having to organise themselves into gangs just to feel that they belong. Socially, it might as well be some nasty experiment that the government are testing on our children. Children deserve to be nurtured, not rounded up like cattle.

What do the government do to sort out their problem, they bring in testing, test after test after test. Our children deserve to be educated not brainwashed into little robots. The goverment have it wrong time and time again, they meddle in things they seem to know nothing about.

When is the government going to be accountable for all the mistakes it makes? When is the government going to take tests on it's ability to run things? Our children are made to feel failures if they do not fit the system. Well, our government are failing us and it's about time they were held accountable, instead of trying to make the figures look good by hounding the worse off.

Do they really think we don't know what is going on? Or do they just not care, or are they more interested in what financial gain they can get, in order to do up their second homes? I thought that was what London weighting was for? We are not stupid, so we shouldn't be treated as such!

They need to wake up before the people do!

anne Mills
Posted on 21 May 2008 9:47 pm (Report this annotation)

The best of students and citizens come from being home cared for and home educated.
Have you been able to observe those children in action ?
Well I have and they bear no harmful behaviours towards themselves or others and no domination complexes either. They are usually skilled and happy loving people.
On their behalf and because they cannot speak for themselves,
I would like to state that those children and lone parents
need financial support in its best form.
They are in such need of support and should get special devotion from
the evolved governements in evolved countries such as the United Kingdom or any other european state.
They should benefit from ample amounts of special fundings.
They are vulnerable and their sole parent very deserving in devoting heart and soul to such noble cause.
Those lone parents are aiming to offer the greatest possibilities for their precious children and they deserve all the help that it is possible to offer to them.
Funding is essentiel for them and should be provided as to reinforce
them and also to encourage other parents to engage and embrace
life in this manner. Home educating is a commitment to the child, to the future society and to the next generation as well.

Barbara Stark
Posted on 21 May 2008 10:34 pm (Report this annotation)

Dear Reader,

Are lone parents the new "Undeserving Poor"?

Do you want to see benefits withdrawn and financial sanctions imposed on the poorest families?

Do you want to see lone parents penalised if they cannot combine paid employment and family responsibilities?

Do you support a forced labour regime under threat of extreme poverty?

Does your MP?

Ask them!

The consultation launched by DWP on regulations is very complicated. However, this issue is simple. What is your MP prepared to inflict on the children of lone parents?

Before the summer recess, 2008, MPs will vote on Social Security regulations now being pushed through. Will your MP support attacks on lone parents?

It must remain the responsibility of parents to decide if the need to be available for their children and the demand to take paid employment can be reconciled. In removing the responsibility for this decision from parents and putting it into the hands of advisors at job centre plus who will follow regulations about what is acceptable, the government will be dividing the poor from whom they consider the undeserving. The undeserving will face financial sanctions plunging them below the poverty line.

We have seen this attitude before...

In the workhouse!

It is now up to the nation's Members of Parliament. What do they have to say and what will they do for some of the poorest and most disadvantaged of our people?

Barbara Stark.

warrior princess
Posted on 22 May 2008 10:38 am (Report this annotation)

If a foster carer can look after some elses child- and be secure why is it that a mother who has her own child be penalized because she wants to care for her child.. you have mothers who starve punish beat there children,take drugs and do not care for there babies /children..
and here we are loving mothers who has the resources to educate there own children{6 +} and you want to punish us...our children where brought into l=this world through us not you /GOVERNMENT they are not your children you cannot give us a kidney if they needed one how can you be like that to the children with the BEST MOTHERS YOU HAVE LEFT IN THIS COUNTRY... we dont want our children or parents being bullied by you..
cheek of you.. we dont have to send our children to school to find WORK SO MAKE THE WORK FORCES MORE FLEXIBLE SO MOTHERS LIKE US CAN SET UP OUR OWN BUSINESS AND AND WORK FROM HOME -
what are you going to do? stop us from having an office at home- so mothers can be self-employed, mothers work for yourself '' pay no tax towards education cus we dont use it'' and save your money
the thing that are used to govern our society today are 500 years out of date,, lets all get back to humainity- SAY NO TO BATTERY FARMED HUMANS

Alison Preuss
Posted on 22 May 2008 10:45 am (Report this annotation)

The Minister should be ashamed of this response in which he belittles the valuable (unpaid) work of parents who take seriously their legal responsibility to ensure their children are educated.

Equally, his 'Children's Minister' colleague should be ashamed to have alleged that forcing lone parents out to work in the western equivalent of sweatshops, while dumping their children in schools and other 'child care' like items of left luggage, is not an issue of concern to him or his department when it will profoundly affect the wellbeing of children and families. What about those children the left luggage departments can't accommodate or accept?

Meanwhile, MPs still expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab for second homes and TV licences while the school system falls apart around them and leaves concerned parents (from all socio economic backgrounds) with no choice when it comes to their children's safety, never mind education. It's time this excuse for a government learned some lessons from families who put their children first.

David Grant
Posted on 22 May 2008 2:16 pm (Report this annotation)

I apologise - the second "Yes" to Timm's disgraceful reply was me. I did not realise these were ratings and the site won't let me change it.

I agree almost entirely with all the above comments. I am only glad that we were able to home educate some years ago, though the state system had not, at that time, imploded as it is now doing. We were fortunate in that prior to home educating, our children attended a really excellent primary school on Orkney - the kind which, if it was the norm, might well reduce the HE population. Alas, these schools are rare and often transient because they depend so much on the staff who happen to be teaching there at any one time.

Penalising parents for home educating their children is just a double whammy, because they get none of the financial benefit that would be paid to any school their child might attend, yet still have the outlay - not least the considerable cost of examination fees.

But this dreadful government, which gets worse by the day, will never listen, so the sooner we get shot of them the better.

sarah buccannon
Posted on 22 May 2008 6:05 pm (Report this annotation)

Does Stephen Timms realise that on average there are 50,000 children who are home educated and that it would cost the government roughly £250 million pounds to educate these children extra each year and also with the lack of school places at the moment where is he going to find 50,000 places for each of these children and then the amount of money it will cost to prosicute the parents after these children rebel and start truanting as a way to show thier upset with the school system.
It would obviously be cheaper on the government purse and the economy to support these parents who choose to take responsibility for thier children and thier education. which is somthing the government were trying to get parents to do not so long back. maybe before the "honorable" member of parliment gets on his soap box he ought to run it past the chancellor of the exchequer to see if the country can afford it.

warrior princess
Posted on 22 May 2008 11:22 pm (Report this annotation)

Run it past the chancellor of the exchequer can england really afford to educate our children... the shame of it...
who is going to pay those extra taxes...

Chris Patty
Posted on 23 May 2008 7:13 pm (Report this annotation)

I am in full agreement with all of above, and admire anyone who HE's their children. I didn't even know that you could when my boys were young - now in their 30's, but could never have done it, I'm afraid. I needed to get out and back to work for my own sanity, although they could read and write before stsrting school, and we played lots of word, memory and other games, which augmente4d the state system.
I have 5 grandchildren, in 2 separate single parent homes, being HE'd and admit to having reservations at first, and occasional doubts even now, but there is no denying that all are happy, healthy and "normally" balanced children. The 10 yr old has dispraxia, which makes her very difficult to harness at times, and could in no way fit into a 9-3 education system. She can be very disruptive would probably been excluded from a state school, as was my nephew who was too bright for the system, but she is very intelligent, can learn when she is in the correct frame of mind - so has to be encouraged to learn when she is receptive. She loves to read, can perform many kitchen tasks (unlike many state school graduates), shop, and has many other life skills that she would not have learnt at school.
They all benefit from countless trips out - unlike today's restrictive school curriculum they frequently go to museums, etc, and have even been interviewed on local radio for supporting their education.
How can these parents be expected to go out to work - there is still the housework, and a much needed sleep to fit in.
From my own point of view it is great not to be restricted to school hours and holidays for visits, and coming here is an education in itself - with rural activities, frogs in the pond, and more places to see.
I personally believe that it is a basic human right to be educated in the place of choice and by the persons of choice - ask the children what they would choose if they could and they wont pick school. The social life that my grandchildren have with other like-minded HE-ers far outweighs that at school, as it often involves group camps, shared activities, and holidays at friends homes accross the country. What's more, since most are under-funded there is no peer pressure to have the best toys, designer clothes or other commercial, avericious desires, in fact it is often refreshing to hear that this used to be so-and-so's dress, or that they share things. Find that in a school if you can!
I will be looking to ask my MP how he is voting on the bill - I have emailed various education ministers over the years, to no avail, so will try this tack now.
Good luck to you all.

Chris Patty
Posted on 24 May 2008 3:13 pm (Report this annotation)

Just a little p.s. - 1) if you go out to work do you know where your child is at all times?
2) If you go out to work did you hear your child's first word, see their first step, etc.etc.?
3) Home edders are in full time employment, albeit voluntary - teaching, rearing and producing balanced young people

Rebecca Davies
Posted on 24 May 2008 6:39 pm (Report this annotation)

God bless all of the above comments.
Thankyou, on behalf of all of us home edders, who find ourselves in a single life, without partner.
But bravely home educating, as it matters.

It is comforting to know you are out there, championing our cause, as home educating SINGLE PARENTS.

Today I recieved a letter from my local MP, with the above message, on this page from Stephen Timms.

I am of the firm belief that the government no understanding of the nature of home education. Sadly, they seem to clarify it, in societies eyes and frown upon it.

Although a major movement in this country, people simply seem unable to have the concept of what in envolves to be a family that home educates.
It has been given patchy coverage as it seems to conflict with peoples ideas of what fits in.
Most people don't know anything about it and dismiss it before they have even had a chance to think about its advantages.

I don't know if we,LONE PARENTS, are regarded as "families", because we are "single" parents.
We are bieng fleeced of constitutional rights.
We are somehow bieng frowned upon as undeserving of such status.

At some point it has become the consensus that single parents, are not as viable to be considered compident as opposed to the two parental support, constituted as ok.
That it would not be apropriate, but would somehow seem undesirable, for single parents to continue such an undertaking.

We are, fighting to swimm and stay afloat, in a minority and are not bieng taken seriously.
Formal education is provided by the government and they see this provision as sufficient to meet the needs of all.

We are no longer bieng awarded the badge of common decency in the modern world of freedom and equality with those families able to keep a mother at home, to give her children what they need, in this case home schooling.

To suggest that we are flexible in our time with home ed is on one hand, correct.

We give the child the opportunity to find the best times to work on what he or she is processing, conquering and concieving into their minds and beings.
We make a daily plan to take in, all the cycles of a childs attention span and spectrum of learning.

This has tragicaly been misunderstood, in a heinous way, as a result it is suggested that it is " free" time to fit in work, at a suggested sixteen hours a week.

The lone parent is at a standstill, as far as family support is concerned.
Asuming he\she has no spouse or parents.
Which, is the situation of many.
He \she is doing a commendable job, that is in danger of bieng discriminated against because of sweeping shallow judgements.

There is racism, sexism, ageism, homaphobia ect.
There needs to be a new awarenes of attitudes towards single parentism. A new bracket of society, that faces discrimination.

The parties, given the task of changing the law, have done the minimum research and are throwing it back at us, as an excuse, to say that we can fit work around the flexible hours of our home ed.

I was reading the Lisbon Treaty, European Constitution and it said that it aims to protect from discrimination, small groups who hold a religious belief, enabling them to live their lives in accordance with it.

To home educators, the path they have chosen is for the welfare of their children and to make a better future, which is not institutionalized.
Broadening their horizons in a hands on, constructive way.

Bringing up children, personally shouldering the cost of tuition, with the help of personal "income support" at one hundred pounds a week, it is a squeeze and barely enough to buy books, computer equipment, art resourses, pay for outings, to learn and meet other children.

Both the time and money are imminently threatened by Mr Hattons suggestion to tar us all with the same brush.

We are bieng forced back to work and forced to stop the wonderful home education process.
My thoughts and distress, are being neatly disregarded as irrelevent. Home education for me and lone parents is bieng disregarded as irrelevent.

Bieng committed to invest time and provide the level of attention needed in hone ed is all consuming.
It is a full time job, my child is always in my care, I have chosen to preserve that right as I chose the right to Home ed.

The whole idea behind home education, is that you do not pass on the responsibility of your precious, impressionable young,to others.

I am a Christian and want my son the see, learn and live a life that has integrity, honesty and value.

There is not, as suggested by the report, a slot at which time you can work independently from the child for four hours in the day.

Excluding the entire home ed process, in order to earn the minimum wage. As demanded by the proposed new law.

Bieng available to answer questions and offer advice, to an excellent level of understanding, of society, as seen through the eyes of an environment that is niot indoctrinated.
To come along side your child and unwrap the world, learn to steadily work through the concepts required by the National curriculum, is exhausting and truly liberating and a labour of love.

But thanks to the law that enables us to home educate we are able to make the choice to live our lives in the way that we see best, for our children.
Safe from the dangers we have removed by home edding.

I hope those envolved take a deeper look at the caring aspect of home ed, and see that there should be an exemption, so that is can be preserved.

I have home edded my son for four years. My local LEA, said in their report, that it is clear that he is thriving.
They expressed a great deal of good supportive feedback, which I am very happy to share with the government as they consider us.

My son is extreemly distressed at the prospect of his whole educational support bieng removed.
He will have to fend for himself for four hours aday.
A long time for a twelve year old.
The idea of returning to school made all of his eczema return, and his stress levels wereso severe, his hair started thinning as he was pulling it out. At school he developed a stammer and it has been lovely watching him recover from the ordeals he endured at school.

All of the progress will be severely impeded if an exception is not made.
I am raching my brains and in a state of disbelief at the new proposals. They are devastating to our little two person family. We try really hard to get on in life, as its hard when theres only two. Work would just antagonise my situation.
I hope we are not viewed as irresponsible for having children out of wedlock.
Europe recognises the rights of its citizens. There are plenty of things said in the Lisbon treaty to defend us.
I beg, anyone out there to quantify the point at which this change in the law is wrong for us. Thus bringing an exception
Please fight for us.
We are without hope at the moment.

Raquel Toney
Posted on 26 May 2008 9:56 pm (Report this annotation)

This government is seeking to divorce the child from the parent. This answer from Mr Timms shows how anti family this government is. Choosing an appropriate education is supported in law but not by this government. They should be ashamed.

tichin merde
Posted on 31 Oct 2008 7:56 pm (Report this annotation)

"the single most important factor in determining a child's achievement is not the color of their skin or where they come from; it's not who their parents are or how much money they have. It's who their teacher is."
Since definitions matter, I thought I'd repost my definition of a teacher.

A teacher is somone who can...

--Give a hug without getting arrested.
--Bandage a knee without calling the school nurse.
--Change a lightbulb without calling the custodian.
--Make the children wash the bathrooms.
--Have a relationship with the principal without getting fired.
--Teach a child's mind while capturing their heart.
--Teach what they believe in and believe in what they teach.
--Meet the child's need and not worry about meeting the state guidelines.
--Commit to a lifetime of work without pay.
--Pray! in class, out loud, with the children and the ACLU can't say a word.

There is is only one that can fill that job description

A teacher is a mom.

"Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and do not forsake your mother's teaching." Proverbs 1:8