Thousands of single parents at risk of sanction under universal credit

Published on Friday, 14 December 2012 09:54
Posted by Scott Buckler

Thousands of single parents could be at risk of losing out of work benefits as the government removes vital protection from sanctions for job-seeking single parents, warns Gingerbread today

Regulations that allow single parents to search for jobs that fit with school hours or to turn down a job if they can't find childcare are being weakened to 'guidance' under universal credit. Gingerbread reports that calls to its helpline from single parents who have been wrongly sanctioned are already all too frequent and that the proposed changes will only worsen the situation.

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: "Finding a job that enables single parents to balance work with supporting their family is crucial.  The existing Jobseeker's Allowance regulations recognise this and give single parents clear grounds to appeal if they are unfairly sanctioned.

"We regularly hear from single parents who have been wrongly sanctioned or threatened with sanctions by the job centre. If the regulations, that are already providing scant protection, are downgraded to guidance, we fear that many more single parents will lose vital money and find it harder to appeal."

The changes have been laid before parliament this week as the government publishes more detail on its plans for universal credit .  Single parents who are sanctioned will lose £71 a week for a minimum of three months  – money that is absolutely essential for paying gas and electricity bills and the weekly food shop for their families – and can have the money stopped for six months or three years for repeat 'offences'.

More than 140,000 single parents are currently in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance and Gingerbread predicts a similar number will move onto the job-seeking element of universal credit, starting next year.

The following regulations for single parents are among those weakened under new universal credit proposals:

·         Limiting job searches to school hours (including travel time) if their child is under 13: under new regulations single parents will only be able to do this if they can prove that jobs within school hours are available in their local area.

·         Being able to turn down a job if there is no suitable or affordable childcare available: downgraded from regulation to guidance.

·         Being able to leave their job if their childcare arrangements fall through and they are unable to make alternative arrangements: downgraded from regulation to guidance.

Gingerbread is urging MPs to lobby the government to reinstate the full flexibilities for single parents under universal credit to ensure that they are protected from unfair sanctions.

[1] New universal credit regulations (December 2012):


[2] JSA claimants currently receive £71 a week and will receive a similar amount under universal credit.


[3] ONS (2012) Labour Market Statistics, November 2012. Statistical Bulletin. London: ONS. Available at:


Out of work single parents with a child aged five and over are eligible for Jobseekers Allowance.  Unemployed single parents with a child aged under five are eligible for Income Support.


[4] Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 1996 as amended by Regulation 11 (8) of the Social Security (Lone Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008


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