More than 22,000 people have signed a petition calling for a reversal of a Universal Credit rule affecting parents of young children.
At the time of writing, the petition has had a total of 22,656 signatures, meaning the Government will have to provide a response.
It relates to a change soon to come which will increase the maximum work-related activity and work availability expected of parents of children aged three to 12, to up to 30 hours.
Petition creator Maggie Gordon-Walker warned the “much lauded funded childcare of 30 hours per week is during term-time only, which means there are at least 12 weeks when no benefits will be received”.
The founder of Mothers Uncovered, a creative support network for mothers, also said: “Parenting is work. The bonding time that parents spend with children is valuable.
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“Do we think it’s right that a child as young as three should be parked in all day care and only see their parent at weekends?
“A parent who is exhausted, stressed and petrified about how to pay the bills, will have trouble in being able to provide a warm, nurturing environment.
“Single parents are not often single by choice. They may have been bereaved or have left an abusive situation.”
The changes are not limited to parents and apply to all Universal Credit claimants who have the main caring responsibilities for children.
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This could be a parent, grandparent, kinship carer, adoptive parent, or other guardian, dependent on their individual family circumstances.
The DWP refers to these people as lead carers to reflect the full range of childcare arrangements.
Where there is a lone parent, they will always be listed as the lead carer and for couples on Universal Credit, individuals can identify who is the lead carer.
The DWP estimates the change, due to come into force this autumn, will support over 700,000 people who have the main responsibility of looking after their children.
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The petition states: “Nestling quietly in Hunt’s budget was a proposal that must NOT be introduced.
“Lead carers (the vast majority being women) on Universal Credit could be sanctioned if they are not available to work up to 30 hours a week once their child turns three. This disregards children’s needs and penalises lone parents.”
The petition continues: “This is short-sighted, inhumane and signals a change in how the welfare state values parenting despite saving on the cost of state-funded childcare; regarding unpaid care work as less valuable to society.
“Parents will also need to meet with a job coach every month with no childcare provided to attend.
“Nurseries don’t have space or staff to deal with extra children. This could devalue parent-child bonding, drive families into debt and exacerbate a mental health crisis.”
Universal Credit changes implemented in July
On July 24, parents of children aged one and two started to have more face-to-face employment support at their local Jobcentre.
The DWP said the extra support builds on efforts to reduce inactivity with a more generous childcare offer through Universal Credit.
The change means:
- Parents with a one-year-old will start to have a work-focused meeting with their work coach every three months instead of the current six months
- Parents with a two-year-old will start meeting with their work coach every month, instead of the current three months.
Universal Credit claimants will be told of the change at their next scheduled appointment with their work coach.
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