13 May 2015
The Minister for Social Security has proposed a package of changes to the financial and practical support available to low income parents with young children.
As the Island’s economy continues to recover, the changes are designed to support more parents into employment and to help their families towards financial independence.
The Minister will ask the States to approve:
- A change so that jobseeking activities for a parent begin in the year before their child first begins school. This brings the timing in line with the date on which the child becomes eligible for the nursery scheme run by Education, Sport and Culture (ESC)
- An increase in the rate of funding for child care paid through Income Support
- A broader definition of childcare that can be supported through Income Support
- Flexibility in actively seeking work responsibilities to allow both parents to share the care of a young child
These changes reflect a key theme of the recently approved Strategic Plan to promote social inclusion and tackle relative low income. Ministers hope to achieve this through a focus on economic growth, and through increasing participation in the workforce by removing barriers to employment.
There is substantial evidence to suggest that consistent help and encouragement in finding employment is an effective way to lift families out of low income. Supporting local parents to return to work will also help to reduce the demand for inward migration.
At present, the parent of a child up to five years old can claim Income Support without a requirement to seek work. The parent may fall out of touch with the workplace for several years and lose valuable employment skills.
As the economy continues to recover, the Minister wishes to support these families to do everything available to help them find appropriate part-time employment. This will include specialist training and more help with the costs of childcare. The parent will have an obligation to engage with Back to Work from the start of the year before the child’s first year of school. This is the same point at which they are old enough to join the ESC nursery scheme.
In line with 1001 days
The Minister for Social Security, Deputy Susie Pinel, said “I firmly believe that helping parents move back into employment leads to a range of economic and social benefits for the family. It makes no sense to continue to allow low-income parents to remain outside the workforce for long periods of time now that support is available to help them return to a suitable part-time job and secure a greater likelihood of economic independence.
“These proposals are also fully in line with the recent States endorsement of the ‘1001 days’ commitment. At a time when financial resources must be carefully prioritised, it is essential that States policies are well co-ordinated. This change strengthens the link between Income Support rules and the nursery places scheme run by Education, helping low income parents move smoothly back into employment.”
Back to Work
If approved, these changes will lead to around 100 parents a year being required to engage with specialist Back to Work services aimed specifically at parents. A successful pilot scheme has already been providing support to parents of school age children.
The 'actively seeking work' activities will be realistic and proportional, and will recognise that some parents will need extra help before paid employment is a realistic outcome. However, they will not be optional, and parents will be expected to look for and take up part-time employment as a reasonable condition of receiving this tax-funded benefit.