Select Committee on Social Security Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department of Social Security (PL 28A)


  1.  The Department's memorandum of 7 June explained that the Income Support rules would enable a person on parental leave to claim Income Support if they fell into one of the categories of people entitled to Income Support—primarily people who are lone parents, or who are sick or disabled parents. This supplementary memorandum describes the proposed extension of the categories of people entitled to Income Support to cover certain couples who take statutory unpaid parental leave. These benefit changes are intended to support the wider aim of helping families reconcile work and family life and to ensure equity of treatment for two parent families.


  2.  As explained in the memorandum of 7 June, current rules would permit some parents (such as lone parents or couples where one parent was incapacitated) to claim Income Support while on periods of parental leave provided that they met the normal qualifying conditions. However, in other cases couples could only qualify for benefit of one parent claimed Jobseeker's Allowance, and fulfilled the jobseeking conditions.

  3.  The Government now proposes a change in the rules to avoid this inequity. Income Support is available to lone parents who have a child living with them, and the Government intends to ensure that employees in two parent families who are on a low income should also have access to Income Support if they exercise their right to statutory unpaid parental leave to care for a child who is living with them. This will enable parents to use their new right to care for their child without the need to comply with any additional conditionality. It is estimated that about 1,000 people a year will take advantage of this new provision at an estimated cost of £1.5m a year.

  4.  Access to Income Support for couples on statutory unpaid parental leave will be linked to receipt of Working Families Tax Credit, Disabled Persons Tax Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit on the day before the parental leave is taken. This is to ensure that this additional support is directed towards employees on low incomes, and not to higher earners who may simply be without an income during a period of parental leave. It is reasonable to expect people on higher earnings to save up to support themselves during a period of unpaid leave.

  5.  People claiming Income Support are expected to provide evidence of their entitlement where available, and this will include confirmation of parental leave. DSS will work with employers to ensure that we are able to introduce the most effective arrangements possible to achieve a reasonable balance between the risks of misuse of the access to Income Support and the needs of claimants and employers.


  6.The proposed extension of access to Income Support to two parent families on a low income while exercising their right to statutory unpaid parental leave will ensure equity of treatment with lone parents who are able to qualify under current rules. Couples in receipt of Working Families Tax Credit, Disabled Persons Tax Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit will be allowed access to Income Support subject to meeting the normal benefit rules.

October 1999

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