If you are a single parent and your youngest child is 5 years of age or over, you are now expected to be job seeker as a condition of being on welfare benefits.
If you are able to work you will need to claim Job Seekers Allowance, the main benefit for people who are out of work. Like other job seekers you will need to show that you are actively looking for work.
Single parents also have their parenting responsibilities. There are rights and specific flexibilities that should help you to move into employment, which take account of your role as a parent. How the flexibilities are applied by Jobcentre Plus will depend on your circumstances (such as the age of your child). You will need to speak with your Personal Adviser at Jobcentre Plus about how these apply to your personal circumstances.
What rights and flexibilities are open to lone parents?
If you are a single parent and your youngest child is under 13, you have the right to restrict the hours you are available to work. You can restrict your hours to those of your child’s normal school hours as long as you are available for work for at least 16 hours each week. This is your right as a single parent.
Job Search – Putting your Job Search on hold
There are some circumstances when you can be given permission by an adviser to put your job search on hold for a period of time.
- Single parents who have suffered domestic violence should not have to engage in work related activity for a period of 13 weeks.
- If you have a parenting order/contract or your child has been excluded from school you can ask to restrict your job search for an agreed time.
- In some circumstances where you have agreed a restriction to your availability with your adviser because of your caring responsibilities, you might not have to show reasonable prospects of finding work if there are no suitable jobs available as a result of those restrictions.
- If you are dealing with a death or serious illness or other domestic emergency involving a close friend or relative this can also be a reason why you could restrict your job seeking. You can only apply to do this for between 1-8 weeks. The length of time that is agreed will depend on how long it is considered it will take you to deal with the emergency or event.
Travel time to work
All job seekers are expected to take a job if it is within a reasonable travel distance from their home. Many single parents need time to drop off and pick up their child from childcare or school before they start their journey to and from work. Jobcentre Plus will therefore include the pick up and fetching from childcare or school as part of the reasonable journey time calculation.
Single parents do not have to accept a job where there is not suitable or affordable childcare available. In order to judge this your Jobcentre Adviser will look at what proportion of your wages would be spent on childcare. In terms of availability you will need to show what efforts you have made to find childcare. The childcare should be suitable for your child’s needs.
If childcare provision has suddenly become unavailable and you are unable to find a suitable alternative, you may need to leave your job. Single parents are able to claim Jobseekers Allowance again if they left a job because childcare costs were too high or there was not appropriate childcare available.
Attending interviews and starting work
Most job seekers are expected to attend a job interview or take up an offer of work straight away. However, as a single parent you may need to sort out some practical issues including finding suitable childcare. You can expect to have up to 7 days notice to attend a job interview and up to 28 days notice before you start a job.
Negotiating with your Personal Adviser
You will need to discuss with your Personal Adviser whether the above flexibilities apply to you and your circumstances. If you both agree, these can be written into your Job Seekers’ Agreement. However, you can appeal if you do not agree with the decision. As a first step your case can be referred to a Jobcentre Plus Decision Maker. If your Jobseekers Allowance is stopped in the interim you can apply for hardship payments.
Further benefits advice is available from the Citizens Advice Bureau.