Approval will be sought at this month’s sitting of Tynwald to make changes to the rules for employed person's allowance and income support for lone parents.
Under the proposed changes - which have been revised from those brought to Tynwald earlier this year - certain groups will have to work more hours to qualify for employed person's allowance (EPA) from the beginning of June 2020.
EPA is a means-tested benefit paid predominantly to families who work but who have a low to moderate income. Around two-thirds of those who claim EPA are lone parents, while around a third are couples who have at least one child.
Lone parents must currently work at least 16 hours a week to qualify for EPA; for couples, one or both partners must work at least 30 hours a week and their hours cannot be combined. These requirements are the same whatever the ages of their children.
The changes in summary:
- Couples whose youngest or only child is aged under 6 will be able to combine their hours and must work at least 35 hours in total
- Couples whose youngest or only child is aged 6 or over will be able to combine their hours and must work at least 48 hours a week in total with exceptions provided for in relation to disabilities, caring responsibilities, sickness, pregnancy and bereavement
- Lone parents whose youngest or only child is aged 13 or over or over will now need to work at least 24 hours a week with exceptions provided for in relation to disabilities, caring responsibilities, sickness, pregnancy and bereavement.
Treasury Minister Alfred Cannan MHK said:
‘We have listened carefully to the feedback received in respect of our original proposals presented in January and adjusted these requirements accordingly.
‘If approved by Tynwald, the changes will come into effect from the beginning of June next year. This will allow ample time for affected families to secure the additional work they need to either maintain their entitlement to EPA or become independent of the benefits system.'
‘Unlike now, couples will be able to share required hours between them, in whatever combination they choose, and we believe this flexibility will be welcomed by many households. Also built in to our proposals are transitional arrangements to ensure that no one will be worse off as a result of working additional hours after taking into account additional commuting costs they may have to pay.
‘Furthermore, we will actively engage with affected families to provide whatever they may need to help secure the additional work necessary. If that involves having to train or re-train, they will be able to continue to claim EPA for up to 52 weeks while this is undertaken.’
Referring to changes to income support which will come into effect in April 2020, Minister Cannan explained:
‘Currently a lone parent can qualify for income support if they are responsible for a child under 12, and there is no requirement to look or prepare for work.
‘However, once a child is settled into school it is appropriate that lone parents claiming benefits should consider a return to work - and that jobseeker’s allowance should replace income support. At this stage, a claimant will be encouraged to access the services of the Jobcentre and other agencies to help them prepare and look for work.’
Provision is made in the proposed changes to enable a lone parent in receipt of bereavement support payments to claim income support, regardless of the age or ages of their child or children. If approved by Tynwald, this particular change will come into effect immediately.
A six-week public consultation process to inform the revision process concluded in January 2018 and attracted 205 responses.