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Boost to lone parent employment - 04-02-2005
A package of support to help lone parents move into jobs and ensure work pays has been announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Alan Johnson, as new figures show the lone parent employment rate at its highest ever level.

Pathways to Work for Lone Parents will give more choice and more help than ever before to lone parents to enable them to move off welfare and into work.

The new pilots, announced in the Department for Work and Pensions Five Year Strategy, bring together extra support and childcare help with added financial incentives to look for and move into work.

The new measures will ensure a clear gain from work for lone parents, as well as guarantees about childcare support and ongoing help of professional job advisers, in return for a commitment to search for and take up the offer of work.

Pathways to Work for Lone Parents will pilot an additional payment of a 20, on top of existing benefits, for lone parents with children at secondary school, in return for taking steps to find work.

New figures released today showed that the lone parent employment rate has hit a record high of 55.8%, an increase of 11 percentage points since 1997, but Alan Johnson said this new package would help even more lone parents move into jobs.

"There are nearly a million lone parents in work now, more than ever before. The New Deal for Lone Parents has been a real success story, helping nearly 300,000 lone parents into jobs since it started six years ago and saving the taxpayer 40 million a year.

"We intend to build on these achievements as we know that helping lone parents return to work is the best route out of poverty for themselves and their children."

The Government's Ten Year Childcare Strategy also gives further help for working parents, proposing nationwide 8am until 6pm affordable childcare for children up to 14 by 2010.

The package being piloted in 5 areas from April 2005 brings together the most successful government policies, ongoing pilots and new measures into a single offer. This is designed along the lines of the increasingly successful Pathways to Work approach for sick and disabled people.

Mr Johnson also announced the extension of the In Work Credit, which gives lone parents making the crucial step into work an extra 40 a week, on top of all other benefits. It has already been announced that this will be available across London, but it is now to be extended to a further six areas in the South East, recognising the higher housing costs faced in these regions. The areas are:

  • Surrey and Sussex;

  • Essex;

  • Kent;

  • Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire;

  • Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire; and

  • Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Mr Johnson added: "These measures will ensure even more lone parents can take the step into the workplace, confident they can support their families and leave a life on benefits behind them."

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