Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jobseekers' allowance and home education

I have an amendment down to the Welfare bill on home educators, and I'd like your views.

The current arrangement is (am I right) that a lone parent home educator has to make her/himself available for 16 hours a week unless she/he can show that appropriate and affordable childcare is not available.

I don't see - given the government's initial response and its general attitude - scope to change that - but what can be done to make it work appropriately in practice?


Blogger T-bird Anni said...

the only way arround this that I can come up with is to encourage single parent home edders to become registered child minders. Minding 1 child after school every day would, i think, count as enough hours as you are allowed to count in paperwork/planning time and tidying up before the child arrives into your working hours. Not ideal as you are then tied to the clock but better than being forced to put a child into school?

11:31 am  
Anonymous BlackAgnes said...

There is discretion written into the regulations for the front line job centre (?not the current term I think) staff to take into account individual circumstances. At the moment it is the usual luck of the draw, i.e. depends on where the person you see sits on scale that runs from jobsworth at one end to intelligent-person-with-initiative at the other. There must be room to make this more robust.

11:32 am  
Blogger OrganisedPauper said...

This is purely a personal point of view. I suppose the main issue would be with childcare. It should be up to the parent,not benefit staff, to decide what is appropriate childcare for their children.

AHEd opposed this bill in consultation for all single parents, not just home educating ones.

I don't think we can make a special case for ourselves as such, but the childcare issues are huge. Finding someone who respects our way of life and style of parenting and would be appropriate for our children is very important.

For a home educated child to be forced into the care of someone who is wholly unsuitable would be a tragedy.

There is also the issue of special needs. For many the appropriate childcare for their children simply isn't available. What kinds of unspeakable pressure will be brought to bare on these families?

11:36 am  
Anonymous wendy said...

My children were old enough to be left alone when I became a single parent and we tried to slow the changes after the split so we didn't lose their father, home and then mother to a job within too short a period so they had time to adjust and get used to the changes before they happened. I got a part time job 9 months after the separation and I was lucky to have supportive HE friends around who were happy to help out giving my children lifts to activities etc. The job centers do have discretion and can see if someone can't get suitable childcare. Obviously school wouldn't constitute suitable child care for a HE child and there are not many HE friendly childminders and a fair few childminder unfriendly HE children! (In as much as they don't cope with changes to routine or are very shy or have other special needs) If a parent is HE and looking for work I don't see a problem. I don't feel its appropriate that such parents are forced to go on courses etc as the disruption to their family life and the childs education when the course doesn't guarantee a permanent job, they should be permitted to continue claiming JSA until they find a suitable job that they can work their childs education around. Theses jobs do exist but they are rarer and will vary depending on each individuals support network and circumstances.

12:23 pm  
Anonymous Kathleen said...

Dear Lord Lucas.

I am a single home edding parent. At the mo I am also recieving benefits. I have been told, now my son is 12 I have to work 16 hours or more.. As I have underlying health problems I would be unable to work more than 16 hours anyay. I have tried it and ended up being quite ill! I also need to find an employer that is understanding of my condition, there may be days when I am unable to leave the house, let alone work. The way it would work for me is to either work from home, (not much available), or work from 4pm onwards when my eldest son has returned from his work, to care for my younger son. He is the only support I have. Although youngest son is 12, mentally he would not be able to cope with being left alone.

Would the tax credit system pay the (upto)75% credits for children of this age to go to childminders? Or would they say that school is a free childcare?
(as stated by a job centre worker, who obviously hasn't a clue)

I feel sad really as a mom I always thought I would be able to bring my children up and be there for them at every milestone in the lives. You know like some mothers can who have the partner that is able to support them. I did not choose to become a single parent, its the way life has paned out sadly. Unfortunately my sons father will not even pay maintenance or see his son, so really my hands are tied there. And plz don't mention the CSA, I i'll laugh my socks off.

I cannot see how this is going to work, it will force single parents between a rock and hard place, they want what is best for their children, but sadly the Gov, don't seem too... They seem to think once teenagers, children should be allowed to roam the streets, getting upto anything their peers are doing! Teenagers need their parents too, they are going through a big change with their bodies, their feelings. They have exams, they need support from their parents, not a parent who is far too tired...

They complain about society breakdown... but without the parents around, it will just get worse.

Your sincerely


12:40 pm  
Anonymous Natasha said...

I have been a HEing single parent and was obliged to claim Income Support for part of the time i was HEing. Having been interviewed by three Lone Parent Advisers at various points and seen for myself what their focus is, i would be deeply concerned about leaving the issue at their sole discretion. Under the new IS/JSA rules single parents (and indeed others) who are in receipt of Carer's Allowance or Disability benefits are still permitted to claim Income Support rather than JSA with its attendant work- seeking requirements. Would the forth-coming HE registration requirement (as per Badman) at least provide HEing single parents with a legal recognition that could be used to extend them the same exception? Income Support of roughly £60 per week, is, after all, a considerably lower cost to the tax-payer than annual, per capita funding for a school-registered child. I know there is an argument there about perverse incentives, but surely the registration procedure is designed to weed-out the mythical HEers who supposedly have questionable motives for home educating?

1:49 pm  
Anonymous Barbara Stark said...

Action for home education campaigned for all lone parents in this matter. Children from lone parent families deserve the same choices regarding their parenting options and educational choices as other families but have been vulnerable to this attack because where lone parents require support. I think the JSA regime for lone parents is part of the general attack on families that seems to be taking place currently.

AHEd's pages including real cases and information is here:

I hope they will be useful.

2:29 pm  
Anonymous Natasha said...

Meant to add that a Home Ed exception to the JSA rules would clearly only be remotely acceptable (politically) for a time-limited period. However, considering the proportion of parents who make the choice to Home educate in response to a crisis or indeed feel that they have no choice at all, such a system would at least give a breathing space to establish an education and regroup generally before tackling the thorny issue of childcare and having to negotiate with target-focussed DWP staff.

3:01 pm  
Anonymous Firebird said...

The question of suitable childcare is absolutely crucial, and it needs to be made clear in any regulations that it is not up to Jobcentre staff to decide what that means. They absolutely must not have the power to declare school to be childcare.

Another problem with JSA which seems to get missed is the 'signing on' aspect which is no small matter when the nearest place for you to do so is the next town and you either have to take your children with you or find someone to look after them while you go. Repeated every two weeks this is a major inconvenience and how much of the cost can parents recover?

4:13 pm  
Blogger Joxy34 said...

I am one such single parent who has decided to childmind in order to remain home with my son so I can continue to HE "formally" once he reaches school age.

It's not ideal as the Early Years Statutory framework means a lot of paperwork, which we are suppose to do while the children are in our settings. In practice many childminders are finding it is not possible and have to devote extra time to ensuring paperwork is completed.

I find it abhorrent that single parents may be forced to put their child/ren into school - and I worry there could be potential trauma for children who have been HE todate, especially children who were removed owning to bullying etc.

And surely, educating our children ought to be classed as a good reason for not being forced into work. It would be helpful if Jobcentres vetted and kept a database of homeworking opportunites. Many in magazines are scams; but real honest to good ones would allow HE parents to satisfy JSA requirements while remaining at home.


6:19 pm  
Blogger shepherdlass said...

I would argue that the ideal solution would be to provide advice and support for home educators to develop home-based businesses which can fit around their family roles.

Contrary to the apparent assumptions of the benefits system, I really doubt that enough 16-hour-per-week jobs exist, particularly those part-time roles with sufficiently predictable hours to allow a single parent to organize "suitable childcare".

Surely business support would be more helpful, better suited to the family routine, and more likely to be sustainable?

8:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I want is some form of work from home which will enable me to carry on home educating my children. However, work from home is a rare find especially when you have no formal qualifications. I left school, cared for my disabled mother until she died and then had children. I have never worked as such...apart from my role as a mother/teacher to my children...which I think I do an ok job at.

My lone parent ineterviewer is very unsympathetic and keeps telling me I have to pull my finger out or all I will be qualified to do is clean toilets. I told her that I was sure the cleaners who make sure she has a clean loo seat to park herself on in her lunch hour would love her for that remark. She tells me its all tough and that when my youngest is 7 I will just have to leave them on their own or force them into school!

8:37 pm  
Blogger Ali said...

16 hours is an awful lot in practice. I run a business and I work for about 6 hours outside the home and 10 at home; some of this can be done in the evenings, but not all. My daughter is currently at school, but I have been pondering how I would make it work if she comes out again. I think we could do it as she is nearly 11 and quite independent, but with a much younger child it would be very difficult, and another reason, if Balls' proposals go through, for the LA to find our provision unsatisfactory.
Childminding is a good option, but for some families with children with special needs it won't work as they will not be able to get registered; this happened to a friend of mine who has a child with an autistic spectrum disorder and whose behaviour was deemed to be a danger to the minded children.
I suppose in an area where there is a large number of HEers, some of them could become childminders and look after the children of the rest, but more for isolated families, particularly with children with special needs, I don't know what the answer is.
I do question the govenment's motives in forcing us all into work; it cannot be for economic reasons. I am costing them far more now that they are paying me maximum Working Families' Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit Back To Work Credit and Over 50 Supplement, as well as paying for my two children to attend school at a cost of about £16,000 a year, than I was home educating on Income Support.

8:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is it not ok for us to look after our own children? why do we have to send them off to someone else, and the gov pay for it? To put me in work the gov has to fund childcare and give me WFTC and CTC to cover costs. THis must surely cost more to the tax payer than to allow me to actually stay and look after my own children? Why do the Gov have such a bad opinion of children being cared and nurtured by their own parents. And they wonder why family life is falling apart and kids have all the issues they do.

8:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I see this as a sad end to civilised society. If mothers cannot stay at home to look after their children, we will reap the whirlwind in eighteen or so years. It can neither be good for the mother of a child (who is programmed to nurture that child) nor the child him or herself (who is programmed to flourish in his or her mother's care).

It is high time that this society took stock of where it is going, and forgot about the infernal and hell-bound business of making money all to benefit already rich people. Most work is nothing but slavery and women are disadvantaged in society yet again.

Politicians should be ashamed of themselves bringing in regulations like this. What would their mothers think?


8:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All single parents should be left on Income Support if they want to be. Not all single-parents have a supportive network in their lives. Home-Educating single parents could be recognised as carers and therefore left on Income Support. If they are wanting us all to register anyway, then why can't we be left on Income Support? Trailing 2 young children to the nearest town 7 miles away on public transport every 2 weeks would be time-consuming and expensive - £9.60 at the moment!
Kate Ussher's response was that Home Educators are more flexible in the hours and days they can work because they are not restricted by school times and school holidays. This is a very ill-informed opinion I think, as I know that, personally, my 2 children learn from the minute they wake up to the minute they go to bed. Therefore, any job would have to be done after they have gone to bed, which is usually the time that I use to get things read for them, for the next day or catch up on housework. Is she proposing that we should stop sleeping? And would the government pay for childcare that is outside daytime working hours?
The suggestion of Homework is a good one, but it is notoriously underpaid and takes over your home. Childminding is not for everyone, neither would everyone's children be happy about having another child in their house. And not everyone's home is suitable for childminding - it costs a lot of money to put safety measures in place.
If the Government gave us the money the give to schools, we wouldn't need Income Support. (Not a serious suggestion, b the way, but just trying to reiterate that IS is LOADS less than the cost to the Government of putting a child in school).

10:18 pm  
Blogger Annkrozeika said...

Thank you for your interest in this. I am a lone parent home educator claiming Income Support. I have been told recently by my lone parent advisor at JobCentre Plus (JCP) that I will have to begin working 16+ hours per week sometime between this October and next October. That, or transfer onto Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

I live in a rural area, with no car, and no childminders or available friends/relatives who would be able to mind my 10 yr old if I worked outside the home. All JCP can do is offer me jobs to apply for such as selling Avon cosmetics, which I have done in the past but which is unsuitable now. Other than this, they have recommended I take a course to recognise my computing skills. I do not feel I need a certificate to prove my computer skills, I feel that going on this course would be a huge upheaval with regards to the home education of my child who I would need to find a child minder for whilst I attended. JCP staff do not seem to understand this.

If I were to transfer to JSA, this would involve a 20 minute train journey each way, a long walk across the town, once a fortnight, with child in tow. The trains run hourly and so by the time I had 'signed on' I would have wasted money and upwards of 2 hours of my child's home education just to go to the next town and sign a piece of paper stating that I had been looking for work.

I, however, feel that my work is at home and out in the world, providing my daughter with a suitable education and a childhood she would not otherwise receive had I kept her in school.

The only way I can see around having to go onto JSA, for me, is to become self-employed running a small business from my home. This way I will still be able to educate my daughter, whilst being off Income Support and not having to take up JSA. Only, the problem is, I don't have the funding to start this venture. Will the nice staff at JCP help? No, I have asked, and they will not. However, if I were to apply for and get a job through them, they would pay me an extra £40 a week for the next 12 months, and give me a considerable sum of money for new work-clothing. Why can this funding not be applied to those who feel their only choice is self employment?? I *want* to work. I *want* to be off benefits.

JobCentre Plus are trying to force me into applying for jobs that I am not interested in, go on courses that will bring no benefit to my life, force my daughter into childcare that they will pay up to 75% for, or force me to send her back into free childcare (school) and make me stay on benefits (JSA)!
I feel trapped.

The government keep saying they want parents to be more involved in their childrens education - how much more involved can someone be than by home educating them? We are doing a good job, us single parents home educating our children, so why force such a huge change?

Forgive me for being cynical, but could it be that they just want all the'poor' people out to work, to stop us home educating our children thereby leaving only 2-parent families and those with plenty of money the option of home education? Because that's what it seems like! I didn't choose to be a lone parent, so why does it feel as though I am being punished for being one?

3:13 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slightly tangential; but the CSA aspect is interesting. I wonder what proportion of single mothers would be lifted above the JSA/IS threshold entirely by receiving the child maintainence due to them. Making an assessment and then failing to collect it, still seems to be fairly standard CSA practice, if my own circle are anything like a representative sample. £80ish income a week (e.g. in Child maintainence) is enough to preclude a Job Seekers Allowance claim; so shouldn't some of the focus be on the ex-partners of the women in question and why they are not contributing? Seems to me it would be a more effective way of reducing the 'single parent on benefit' figures than this relentless attack on women, and let's face it home edding single parents have got to be the toughest subset to force back into the job market, from a policy perspective.

4:20 am  
Blogger Jessica Mwanzia said...

My concern is that being a Lone Parent in work will be used by LAs to say we are not available for HE. Although HE is not taken as reason not to be available for work.
Many HE/LP are anxious about finding 16+ spare hours in our already busy HE schedules.Something will haveto give-we are detrmined it will not be our children's welfare so it will probably be our own health.
I am required to be in employment from September and intend to be self-employed from home. For the first year Idon't haveto earn anything (I am over 50 so transitional benefits lasting 1 year take me to over what I get on IS) but in the long term I am faced with the prospect of living on less than the government-stated minimum or leaving my teens to their own devices for long periods of time.

10:55 am  
Anonymous Heidi said...

As a single mum I find it irresponsible of the government to force single parents back into work if they feel their children of what ever age still need them at home. Surely most of the problems in society could be solved by parents spending more quality time with their children, right up through the teenage years too, not less. As a homeducating single mum I hardly see how I'm going to fit in the required number of hours but I'm going to try, but I don't think signing on every two weeks is going to help. What about if it clashes with a home ed event or a regular education session for my son? Will I be penalised for not being able to sign on, will I be able to change the day or time, or will I be told to cancel the arrangement for my son? Regardless of whether I wish to work or not I don't feel I should be forced to work while the govenment pays some one else to look after my son. Kind of defeats the object doesn't it? Not to mention that we may have a difference of opinion on suitable childcare. Are the benefit staff going to understand why I can't work evenings because I think I should be there for my son? Are they going to understand why I refuse to accept jobs for certain days of the week due to educational arrangements or that four afternoons week I drive him a fair way to dance and gymnastic classes and wont be able to work during those times. I think that this is going to cause untold stess for the families involved and be detremental to the welfare of home educated children and make parents less available to those children who attend school. This will cause many more problems and have a knock on effect in society. Not responsible at all, a move with out foresight in my opinion.

12:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah? And where are the jobs? My friend is a 52 year old man who was bullied out of his local government job in 2004, after twenty six years of service in a low-paid job. So, after the shock and stress abated a bit, he trained as a nurse and, guess what, he goes to interviews all the time where 'he interviews very well' (they tell him) but they 'appointed someone with experience.'
Where are the jobs?
Two degrees has he and never a lick of a job can he see.

Disillusioned with the state we're in.

3:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm married so perhaps I don't have a place here but I worked as in CAMHS for a long time and my dh still does. One thing that is clear from my work is that children need a parent at home for them. Not just home ed kids-all kids.
Children don't want to feel they are a terrible burden when they are ill and a parent gets stressed about taking time off work.
They don't like being left alone after school or before school-or being shunted between relatives and strangers.
Surely even THIS Govt has seen the research???
Of course the whole way this Govt moves families is going to ensure my dh is never out of work. I think that's tragic.

7:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a single parent and a home educator. I work 17 hours a week at a school (term-time only) My son is cared for by his grandparents whilst I work but I am not in a position to pay them very much and it would help me and my parents greatly if the government extended the childcare element of tax credits to include relatives. My son is 10 and has behavioural problems that make it impossible for him to be cared for by a regular childminder. If it wasn't for my family it would be impossible for me to home educate.

7:11 pm  
Blogger Ralph Lucas said...

Dear All,

Thankyou so much for these comments. We'll be debating the subject at teatime on Monday, and I'll make good use of your thoughts and examples. I'll let you know how it goes.

12:25 pm  
Anonymous Natasha said...

Just read the Hansard - excellent job! It is so heartening to see that at least some Members of one of the Parliamentary chambers understand the issues surrounding HE properly. I, for one, appreciate your advocacy.

2:22 pm  
Blogger Annkrozeika said...

I too have read the Hansard. Thank you Lord Lucas, for trying... And thanks to Lord Northbourne and Baroness Thomas of Winchester for their show of support also.
Please forgive my extreme ignorance on how these things work, but am I correct in thinking 'amendment withdrawn' means that what you suggested will not go ahead?
Thanks again, you really did take on board a lot of our comments and concerns.

1:32 am  
Anonymous Jax said...

Have now been off and read the Hansard and am struck by the repetition of this point:

"I would be delighted if we came back to this, but it is because those excluded children are within the state system and the home-educated children cannot be in the same category because home education is a choice."

As many ppl have pointed out, for some families home education is a choice of last resort, because effectively there is no other option. Why should they have to put their child through the system to the extent that they become excluded, surely it is more worthy for the parent to act to head that off where possible? Or to take a choice that means you won't have to take the other path.

Also, there's a point about flexibility, with the home educating parent supposedly more flexible in terms of when they can educate. Assuming that you could get that idea past a LA official who thinks learning takes place between 9 and 3.30 while sitting at a desk (and yes, they do exist, trust me on this one), is it not possible that while a parent could be flexible in when they educate and could be flexible in when they work - perhaps they can work evenings when a relative is available to assist with childcare for example, I bet the job centre isn't flexible in being around for interviews and assistance at that time!

4:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lord Lucas,

Just wanted to thank you for trying. You and Mark Field are hero's to HE parents!


8:05 am  
Blogger Ralph Lucas said...

I don't think - though I may have missed something - that there's scope for changing the bill. We may though have some hope of changing practice - see my next post.

11:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

amazingly, childminding for childrenover the age of 8 does not have to be registered alhtough the parent sending a child to you will not get any of the childcare costs back from WTC. For home educating families in communities, this could work if other EHE families who would not get any childcare help anyway could form a small group once a week for the day. the other eight hours ? maybe childmind two afternoons. Also some parents with SEN children (severe) get money from the LA to pay for children whose families need a break- a long weekend once month with overnights covers the time and can also be called childminding of an over 8. The benefit system allows 2/3rds of all childminding income to be kept.
I also have cleaned houses to top up hours in the past when my daughter was younger (and being EHE age 7) she would happily read or engage in an activity while i cleaned but only a couple of hours once or twice a week.
other than that you cannot 16 hours unless you yourself get a registered childminder and my daughter did not like that one bit!

9:36 pm  
Blogger Catalonia13 said...

Firstly I'd like to say thank you for your support!

I think there is a very simple solution to this problem.

Single parents who are Home Educating should be classed as working, we *are* working, we are providing our child/rens education therefore already working 16+ hours a week.

We should be given Working Tax Credits, this would take us off Income Support and lower the unemployment figures, we wouldn't need to waste everyones time (and money) searching for a pretty much non-existant job and we wouldn't need to claim any help with childcare, so saving the government even more money (on top of the £5000pa we save now by not sending our children to school and we (well I for one) would feel a lot happier being classed as working rather than unemployed!
Its so simple really....!

11:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a lone parent an home
educat of 3 children. My local job centre has informed me that if I am unable to work the required 16 hours when my youngest turns 7 years old, I will have to produce some type of official proof that I am home educating. He is not sure what that will be - and neither am I !! He even stated that he wasnt sure if it would be accepted!! imagine my horror at having to fight for my right to home educate or feed my children, as that is what it boils down to!! I have no income apart from benefits, I have become adept at ensuring that my children always have the equipment etc they need.

We should be given help with educating costs - or even lunch money as they do in schools, not be constantly worried about having to work 16 hrs AND home educate. I think lone parents have a tough deal- and should not be penalised for choosing what is best for our children educationally.

8:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am soon to be on benefits due to being laid off! I am a single mum with 3 children and a mortgage to pay, apart from being treated like scum at an interview at the Jobcentre Plus, my second child has had to be pulled out of private school and surprise surprise there is no spaces available in state school I'm now having to home school him and also have a baby under one! My previous job enabled me to work from home so I never had a need with childminders, thank goodness as I would not of been happy having complete strangers picking my kids up from school, I don't care what the benefits office say I will not allow that to happen why does this government just realise the obvious INSTEAD OF PAYING CHILDMINDERS TO LOOK AFTER OTHER PEOPLES CHILDREN ALLOW THE PARENTS TO STAY ON BENEFITS UNTIL THE CHILDREN ARE OLD ENOUGH TO GET A JOB. WHY TAKE FROM PARENTS TO THEN GIVE TO CHILDMINDERS DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. The loosers are the children affected by this stupid policy, they miss their parents especially if they are single parents the bond between child and parent is even stronger.

11:54 pm  
Blogger mumov3 said...

I believe the reason that the government is hell bent on getting single parents into work is due to pressure from sensationalist media reporting. We've all seen the headlines 'Benefit Scroungers' etc etc. Unfortunately, HE are the ones who will suffer the most :(

11:25 pm  

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