Up to 70,000 single parents will be forced to actively seek work or risk losing their benefits following the implementation of welfare reforms today.
Lone parents whose youngest child is aged 10 or 11 will now be moved from Income Support benefits to the Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), which is paid at the same rate but requires them to attend fortnightly interviews at Jobcentre Plus and show they have applied for jobs before they can receive the benefit.
Parents of children aged 12 or older were moved to JSA last year, and the change will be extended to all single parents with children aged seven or over in October next year.
The work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper said: “What we want to do is help more parents in to work, but also to do so in a family-friendly way.”
Cooper added that under the new regulations parents only have to look for part-time work.
She told GMTV: “They may also be able to look just for work that fits with school hours if they’re lone parents as well, because I do think it’s important often to be able to pick the kids up from school and as a mum I know how important it is to be able to spend time with the children.
“I do think it’s right that as the children grow older there are more responsibilities on parents to start looking for work. We know that is good for both the parents and children as well.”
But the campaign group Gingerbread accused the government of failing to back up the move with the necessary support for parents.
Fiona Weir, Gingerbread chief executive, told the Metro: “The extra obligations are there but the support is woefully inadequate.”
The campaign group spoke to parents who were transferred to Jobseekers Allowance last year who said they did not receive the promised meetings with New Deal advisers and felt under pressure to find work and were demoralised by repeated rejections.