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Closed petition Reverse the requirement for parents on UC to be available to work for 30 hours

Nestling quietly in Hunt's budget was a proposal that must NOT be introduced.

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Lead carers (the vast majority being women) on universal credit could be sanctioned if they are not available to work up to 30 hours a week once their child turns 3. This disregards children's needs and penalises lone parents.

This is short-sighted, inhumane and signals a change in how the welfare state values parenting despite saving on the cost of state-funded childcare; regarding unpaid care work as less valuable to society. Parents will also need to meet with a job coach every month with no childcare provided to attend. Nurseries don't have space or staff to deal with extra children. This could devalue parent-child bonding, drive families into debt and exacerbate a mental health crisis.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 7 November 2023

This measure, now introduced, enhances Jobcentre support for parents, reflecting increasing help with childcare. 30 hours is a maximum work requirement, with commitments tailored to circumstances.

The Government wants to strengthen the work coach support offered in Jobcentres for lead carers and help them prepare for, and move into, work. This change is part of a wider package of reforms that prioritises spending to help more people into employment. This includes the childcare reforms also announced at Spring Budget which increases the availability of childcare, reduces costs, and extends eligibility. The needs of the most vulnerable are a priority for this Government. The latest data shows that in 2021/22, only 5% of children in couple families, where both adults worked full time, were in absolute poverty after housing costs, compared to 52% where one or more adults in a couple were in part time work only. [Income, Families and Disadvantage Analysis division, HBAI data.]

From July, lead carers of children aged 1 or 2 began to receive additional support to prepare for work by attending Jobcentres more frequently – with lead carers of children aged 1 now attending a minimum of every three months and lead carers of children aged 2 attending every month. From 25 October, lead carers of children aged 3 to 12 are being supported to increase the number of hours they are expected to work, look for work or prepare for work. The emphasis is on flexibility, and 30 hours as a maximum expectation. Work coaches will use existing guidelines and new learning and development materials to tailor claimant commitments so they reflect individual circumstances. Where appropriate, easements can be applied. Childcare champions will also ensure that work coaches are kept up to date with local childcare availability. This additional support, will ensure that lead carers of children aged 3-12 will be in a much better position to look for and prepare for work, increase their earnings and take full advantage of the increased childcare provision.

Sanctions are there to encourage claimants to comply with reasonable requirements, developed and agreed by them with their work coaches based on their individual circumstances. Work coaches will only refer a claimant for a sanction if they do not comply with their agreed requirements without good reasons.

This change is designed to provide support to lead carers of children to help them move into work or grow their earnings and provide their children with the best possible start in life.

Department for Work and Pensions