Benefit sanctions for lone parents with children aged one or more

02 December 2008

Today’s review on welfare reform published by the DWP calls for benefit sanctions for lone parents with children aged one or more, and other ‘economically inactive’ groups to encourage them to move towards work.

The review, undertaken by Professor Paul Gregg from Bristol University, and commissioned by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell, suggests that the Government should extend conditionality so that virtually no one can claim benefits without taking active steps to address barriers to work.

For the full report see:

John Atkinson, Associate Director at the Institute for Employment Studies, comments:

‘The approach of encouraging lone parents into the world of work through making benefits conditional in this way is not new, and works well in some Scandinavian countries. In fact, today’s report is simply calling for these parents to to attend relatively short work-focused interviews to prepare them for re-entry into the worlds of work when the time comes. The majority of parents want to return to the workplace when they are able to anyway.

‘However for these proposals to work, similar schemes in other countries show that it may require costly accompanying features, such as personalised training, childcare and further financial support. The Government may be unwilling to make these expenditures that would make this work. Looking at some of the other countries cited in the report, it is notable that Denmark spends 4.5 per cent of GDP on measures to support workless people into the labour market, and the Netherlands spends 3.5 per cent. The comparable figure in the UK is 0.5 per cent.

‘In addition, we all know the labour market is in difficulties. The review notes that these proposals are longer-term aspirations, but they raise an important question about the capacity of Jobcentre Plus and its private and voluntary sector providers to offer the right kind of support to lone parents and other hard-to-help groups, at a time when their frontline staff are having to respond to large numbers of newly unemployed people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance.’

Further information

For information about the IES research, contact the IES press office, or on 01273 763414

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