Prepare for Work after Youngest turns 12 Months Old
When your child reaches 5 years old and you are claiming out-of-work benefits, you are expected to become a jobseeker.
However, a new Government rule, introduced on the 28th April 2014, means greater pressure is put on single parents to prepare for work when their child is younger than 5 years old.
The idea is that for single parents, early preparation will make them more job ready when their child reaches 5 years old and starts school. But many single parents on Income Support (who have a child under 5) already need to attend the Jobcentre for Work Focused Interviews.
What will this mean for single parents?
The new system will mean that once your child is aged over 12 months old you can be mandated (made to or you face a financial sanction) to attend the Jobcentre more frequently.
In addition once your child reaches 3 years of age you can also be instructed to carry out Work Related Activity such as training or work experience by your Adviser.
We support initiatives designed to improve skills but we are concerned that the basic level of skills training on offer at Jobcentres might not be adequate. We are also concerned that it might not be possible to secure additional childcare in an existing nursery setting, and a change of nursery might be unsettling for young children.
When dealing with the Jobcentre, it is important that you tell them when your child is at nursery or other childcare provision and try to secure appointments and activities during this time.
Single parents with a child aged 1-3 will be expected to attend a minimum of two Work Focused Interviews (WFI’s) each year, and single parents of children aged 4 are likely to be asked to attend more frequently.
The frequency of WFI’s will be at the discretion of the Adviser. An initial WFI is likely to help establish your level of qualifications and employment history. You should also use this as an opportunity to identify what training and skills you think you need to move into work .
Preparing for work
When you go for the Work Focused Interviews, be prepared with your ideas about external training or courses that you think would help progress you into work and your longer term work aspirations.
Your Adviser should give you a factsheet on work related activity (for when your child reaches 3 years old). It is important at meetings with your Adviser that you make them aware of your children’s needs (including whether they have a disability or special needs) and if they attend nursery the hours of the provision over the week (and whether this is just in term time).
You should also let them know if there are personal circumstances that make your participation difficult (for instance if you have experienced domestic violence.) You should also tell them if you have a health condition or disability.
Work Related Activity (WRA) can be one or a number of activities to help you move towards work. However, the rules mean that it is ultimately up to your Adviser to determine what is appropriate. For instance they can decide that you need to undertake a basic skills course (such as literacy and maths). However, the WRA is not a job seeking requirement; you cannot be made to apply for work at this stage. If you are not happy with the WRA that you have been asked to do then you have the right to request for this instruction to be reconsidered by a different adviser.
Sanctions and how to appeal
If you do not attend an agreed Work Focused Interview (WFI) or Work Related Activity (WRA) then you can be "sanctioned" by the Jobcentre which means you will lose a proportion of your benefits.
However, you can appeal against the decision if you show a ‘good cause’ for not attending and do this within the stated timescales (usually five days). There is no set definition of a ‘good cause’ but this relates to your personal circumstances that have caused you difficulty in attending an interview or undertaking an activity.
Some examples of a ‘good cause’: domestic violence, needing to attend a medical or dental appointment or accompanying a person who is in your care to such an appointment, one of your dependents is suddenly unwell, attendance at a funeral of a close friend or relative, transport difficulties, attending a job interview, the customs and practices of your religion prevent you attending at the specific time, or you misunderstood the instruction or were given misleading information about your appointment by your Adviser.