Single parents 'singled out by harsh benefits sanctions'

Pressure group claims rules make it harder for one-parent families

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Indy Politics

Single parents are wrongly being threatened with having their benefits cut under the Government’s tough new sanctions regime, according to a report published today.

Gingerbread, which represents lone parents, claimed that two in five proposed sanctions against single mums or dads are overturned later – a higher rejection rate than among other claimants. People can lose up to £72.40 a week while their appeals are being heard.

The pressure group’s research found that single parents relying on income support are being threatened by Jobcentre Plus staff with losing an initial 20 per cent of their benefits even though they are not required to look for work. Similar warnings were issued to lone parents with children under three, even though they do not have to prepare to enter the job market.

Cases cited in the report include:

  • A single mum who had her jobseeker’s allowance stopped for three months after turning down night shift work because she could not find suitable childcare
  • A mother with an 18-month-old child was told to attend Jobcentre interviews every two weeks, and to travel long distances to work or work nights to keep her income support
  • A mum who was “sanctioned” for missing a Jobcentre appointment because her son was in hospital
  • The mother of a two-year-old was ordered to apply for jobs and told that her income support would be stopped if she did not answer her telephone.

Fiona Weir, Gingerbread’s chief executive, said: “The benefits sanctions regime is broken; precious time and resources are being spent on sanctions are coming at the expense of action that would help people back to work. Single parents want to work but they have to balance any job with caring for their children.”

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Fiona Weir, Gingerbread chief executive

She added: “It is extremely distressing for any parent to be told that they are going to lose £290 for a month when they need that money to feed their children.”

The Department of Work and Pensions insisted that only 10 per cent of sanctions referrals for lone parents are overturned. A spokesman said: “We are giving lone parents more help than ever before to move into work and the employment rate for lone parents is now at a record high. Sanctions are a necessary part of the benefits system but they are only used as a last resort for a tiny minority who don’t follow the rules and hardship payments are available if people need them.”

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