The Treasury has today launched a consultation on proposed changes to two income-related social security benefits – employed person’s allowance and income support for lone parents.
Employed person’s allowance – or EPA – is a benefit for families and disabled persons who work, but who have relatively low incomes. To qualify for EPA, people have to work at least a minimum number of hours each week.
The Treasury believes some families claiming EPA could be encouraged to increase the number of hours they work, raising their incomes and lowering their reliance on EPA. The Department is inviting feedback on this proposal from current EPA recipients, other members of the public, employers and representative bodies before considering any further action.
Ralph Peake MHK, political member of the Treasury with responsibility for Social Security matters, said:
‘At the moment, to qualify for EPA a lone parent must work at least 16 hours a week, while for couples one or both of the partners must work at least 30 hours a week. This is irrespective of the ages of their children. However, Treasury believes that as their children get older and settle into school there is an opportunity for them to work more hours, earn more and gradually reduce their reliance on EPA. This would improve the financial position and social wellbeing of those families, as well as benefit society and the economy generally. We are proposing that the minimum working requirements for EPA should be increased incrementally from when the youngest or only child in a family reaches age 6.’
Mr Peake added:
‘If Treasury does decide to legislate for the proposed changes, we intend to provide a 12-month lead-in period, which would allow those families time to prepare for the new requirements. Our employment advisers and trainers would be available to help explain the changes and provide whatever help and support people need to secure the additional work necessary. I would also like to make it clear that Treasury is not proposing any changes to the minimum work requirements for lone parents whose youngest child is aged under 6, or for disabled workers. For these groups, the requirement will continue to be 16 hours a week.’
The Treasury is also proposing to revise the entitlement conditions for income support for lone parents. Currently lone parents can receive income support as long as they have a child under 12, with no requirement for them to look for work.
Mr Peake said:
‘Treasury believes that once their youngest or only child is settled in school it is an opportunity for individuals to be taking steps to either look for work or prepare themselves for work. Our employment advisers and trainers would be on hand to help them. We are proposing that the availability of income support should stop once their youngest or only child is aged 6 and from that point they should claim jobseeker’s allowance instead. This would allow them to fully engage with the employment support services available. Reducing the age limit to 6 would also dove-tail with the proposed changes to the EPA rules.’
The consultation can be found on the Consultation Hub.
Hard copies of the consultation document are available at Markwell House, at the Ramsey social security office or by email to Consultation.SSD@gov.im