David Cameron’s benefits crackdown ‘will hit single parents hardest’

Critics warn that Tory ‘earn or learn’ policy  could leave 160,000  with nowhere to live

David Cameron may be forced to rethink his plan to deny under-25s an automatic right to state benefits because many of the people losing out would be single parents.

Nick Clegg is worried that parents could be affected by proposals to restrict housing benefit for the more than one million “Neets” – young people not in education, employment or training – under a strategy announced by the Prime Minister at last week’s Conservative Party Conference.

Official figures show that 166,000 (46 per cent) of those under 25 who claim housing benefit are lone parents. So are 8,000 (2 per cent) of those claiming jobseeker’s allowance, which could also be limited under the “learn or earn” strategy being drawn up by the Downing Street Policy Unit.

A senior Liberal Democrat source told The Independent yesterday: “We are not opposed to conditionality in the benefits system, which currently exists. However, we are completely against turning the most vulnerable in society into easy targets.

“That is why when the Conservatives put forward plans last year to remove housing benefit from all under-25s, they were quickly blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

“The Conservatives have provided absolutely no details about what this idea entails but even they must see the need to support young parents.”

Groups representing single parents are warning that they would be badly affected if housing benefit were included. Fiona Weir, chief executive of Gingerbread, said: “Almost half of the young people supported by housing benefit are single parents, and the overwhelming majority rely on this support because there is nowhere else for their family to live. Moving back in with mum and dad simply isn’t an option for everyone.”

She added: “Many young single parents are keen to skill-up and enter the job market, and provide a better income for their family. The barriers they face are a lack of flexible jobs and access to childcare, not a lack of aspiration to work. It is not clear from what we’ve seen of the ‘earn or learn’ policy if any of these barriers would be tackled.”

Charities are warning that under-25s will already lose out under the Government’s plans to streamline the benefits system by bringing in universal credit.

At present, single parents are exempt from rules that provide young adults a lower rate of support. Universal credit will remove this exemption, resulting in 240,000 young parents losing around £780 a year.

The Government’s figures show that the changes to support for all parents under 25 will result in 100,000 more children being pushed into poverty.

More than 70 charities and community groups will today launch a campaign in support of people who rely on benefits at some point in their lives. Polling for the “Who Benefits?” drive found that, despite attempts by some Conservatives to portray claimants as “skivers”, 81 per cent of the public say that benefits should be there for people who need them.

But the YouGov survey also found that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of those receiving benefits say they have hidden their claims because of what people will think. More than half (51 per cent) of those who have never been on benefits say they would feel embarrassed to draw them.

The groups backing the campaign to give claimants a “voice” include include Gingerbread, The Children’s Society, Crisis, Macmillan Cancer Support and Mind.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “Lots of individuals with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination, as their condition is less visible than a physical disability. These new statistics suggest those who claim benefits experience double the stigma.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss