Welfare plan finds work for one-third

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The Independent Online
ONE-THIRD of lone parents taking part in the "New Deal" welfare- to-work programme have been found work in the first six months that pilot schemes have been running, it was said last night.

As the scheme will eventually be open to half of the 1 million lone parents currently claiming income support - those with children of school age - ministers are closely monitoring initial results.

Harriet Harman, Secretary of State for Social Security, said last night that it was encouraging that once lone parents became aware of the advantages offered by the personal help they would receive, 90 per cent of those interviewed agreed to take part in the programme.

In the eleven pilot areas, 20,205 lone parents had been contacted in the first six months; there had been 4,584 initial interviews booked; 3,761 had attended those interviews; 3,368 had agreed to participate - and 1,113 had found work.

No breakdown was available of the kind of work taken up - full-time or part-time, pay rates, or sectors - but the Department has ordered an independent evaluation, which will provide greater detail, including a comparison with areas where the scheme is not operating.

But one of the case studies provided by the Department cited the case of a woman of 39, with two children, aged 11 and 15, who had been on income support for seven years.

Having left school at 16 without formal qualifications, she started work last September as a sales assistant, and was now pounds 84.40 a week better off in work.

In another case, a woman of 31, with three children aged 4, 8 and 10, was pounds 33.35 a week better off as a receptionist.

Ms Harman said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already made pounds 300m available for out-of-school childcare for low-income families - which was helping the lone parents taking part in the scheme.

After a "manifesto" for lone-parent families was delivered to No 10 yesterday, Sally Witcher, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the New Deal scheme for lone parents was welcome, but not enough, partly because it was aimed only at those with school-age children.

"The extent of child poverty among lone parent families is a national scandal," she said.

"Poverty does not have to be an inevitable consequence of lone parenthood, although cuts to lone parent benefits will increase the likelihood of poverty. Instead, with proper support, lone parents could be enabled to have real choices - as parents or as workers, or in combining the two important roles."