At this month’s sitting of Tynwald the Treasury Minister will seek approval for significant changes to be made to employed person’s allowance and income support for lone parents.
Employed person’s allowance (EPA) is a means-tested benefit payable predominantly to families who work but who have a low income. Around two-thirds of those who claim EPA are lone parents, whilst around a third are couples who have at least one child.
Currently, lone parents have to work for at least 16 hours a week to qualify for EPA, whilst for couples one or both partners have to work for at least 30 hours a week. These requirements are the same whatever the ages of their children.
From April 2020 certain groups will have to work more hours to qualify for EPA.
In summary, this means:
- Lone parents will need to work 30 hours a week if their youngest or only child is 13. (currently the age is 16)
- couples will need to work 35 hours if their youngest or only child is under 6, 48 hours if their youngest or only child is aged 6-12 or 60 hours if their youngest or only child is aged 13 or over
- couples will be able to share the hours, which they can’t do currently
- exceptions are provided in relation to disabilities, caring responsibilities, sickness and pregnancy
There are also changes in income support for lone parents which will come into force in October 2019. Currently, lone parents can claim income support up the child’s 12th birthday. This will now apply only until the child’s 6th birthday. However, individual circumstances will be taken into account and those caring for disabled adults or disabled children, as well as those who cannot work due to sickness or disability, may be able to continue to get income support after their child’s 6th birthday.
Alfred Cannan MHK, Minister for the Treasury said:
'It is absolutely right that we should be helping working families on low incomes to make ends meet. However, the current system does not provide enough encouragement for those who could work more hours to do so. We see many cases where individuals are working the bare minimum to qualify for EPA, when they could be doing more to support themselves and therefore reduce or even eliminate their reliance on benefits.'
Minister Cannan added:
'If approved by Tynwald, the changes will come into effect from April 2020. I believe this will allow time for affected families to secure the additional work they need to either maintain their entitlement to EPA or to become independent of the benefits system. Employment advisors at the Jobcentre will proactively contact those families and offer advice, guidance and assistance in securing the additional hours needed.'
Referring to the change to be made to income support, Minister Cannan explained:
'I believe that once their child is settled into school it is appropriate that parents should start to consider a return to work, so will now claim jobseeker’s allowance instead, and be actively encouraged to access the services of the Jobcentre and other agencies to help them prepare for work and to look for work. We want to make sure we are doing all we can to help lone parents achieve better outcomes for themselves and their families.'