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The problem is that, as we know, around a third of those going on to ESA have a primary diagnosis of a mental health condition, although dual diagnosis and co-morbidity is seen in many cases. Indeed, a lot of people have mental health problems because they are long-term unemployed or long-term inactive. They need the right interventions to help them back into work, and mental health services are absolutely vital in that area, along with employment training and support. It must be the role of GPs and health services to diagnose conditions and work out what, if any, specialist health support should be provided to each individual, and to make those referrals to specialist health services. They have the knowledge to make those complex judgments. It is not the role of non-medically qualified individuals in Jobcentre Plus to do that; it is simply not appropriate. They can do some things-they can signpost people to health support such as the IAPT programme; they can provide work support-but they do not have the training or the knowledge formally to refer individuals to specialist health support. Nor do I want to go down the road of mandation into treatment or of out-of-work obligations. That is not the right way to go. I think that noble Lords will immediately understand all the human rights issues around that.

I assure noble Lords that we have a significant number of safeguards in place to ensure that individuals who present with mental health conditions and who may need specialist health support are signposted to such support. If at work capability assessment stage an individual presents with unexpected findings or undiagnosed physical or mental health conditions that cause the healthcare professional concern, and they feel that their GP should be aware of it, that information goes to the GP within 24 hours of the assessment. Again, it reinforces the role of the GP.

I am not talking about passing the buck to the NHS, because we have an important role to play. We need to ensure that the incentives in the system are right so that we stop people falling out of work-mental health conditions come second behind musculoskeletal conditions in the list of reasons. These concerns led me to commission the sickness absence review led by Dame Carol Black and David Frost. That important review has done a lot of the analysis that I wanted, and one of its recommendations was an independent assessment service which offers a kind of second opinion and a much more coherent view on what a person can do in terms of the workplace and their illness. That is about catching people at the right time, and I want to be able to catch people right at the start. The review has made a very serious set of recommendations which, as we work through their implications, could become a valuable motor to our rethinking how we supply help and make the connections between health and work. That is one opportunity that we now have. We are taking our time to get our reaction out because we want to get it right and to sort this issue out in its context.

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We are also working with work programme providers to help them support those of their participants who have a mental health condition in gaining employment. We have had a bit of a slow start, as I had to admit in this Chamber yesterday, with the flow of ESA, although there are good signs that it is beginning to pick up. We have established a relationship between the prime providers and the mental health specialists, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, who is one of the key people in working out the mental health interventions that help people on the road to work. He has started working that out precisely and I am looking to him to give me some of the answers. I should probably vote against him rather than him against me because he has the responsibility in that area.

Within Jobcentre Plus we have launched a new support for all advisers to ensure that they are better skilled in helping claimants to improve their health and well-being. Jobcentre Plus employs disability employment advisers who are able to help claimants with the most severe health problems and to refer them to specialist divisions, such as Work Choice. We employ mental health and well-being partnership managers to build practical links between the local mental health services and employment services. Outside of the employment support we provide, the department has been actively engaged with the Department of Health to ensure that employment support is an integral part of the IAPT programme. Similar work is ongoing with the devolved Administrations.

This is a serious amendment on a serious matter. It is a difficult matter and we are not going to sort it out with a little bit of legislation. I commit to continue giving the issue serious consideration and effort. We can make a big improvement to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and I commit to go on working in this area. I will have any meeting on this matter. My door is always open anyway but on this matter it is wide open. I therefore urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Winchester:Is Access to Work still available to people with mental health problems?

Lord Freud: Yes, it is.

Lord Adebowale: I thank the Minister for his thoughtful response and the Members of the House who have taken part in this useful debate.

It is frustrating for me that there is evidence about the interventions that are likely to work with people who have the most common types of mental illnesses which restrict their ability to work-mainly anxiety and depression. The use of programmes such as Beating the Blues-the cognitive behavioural therapy approach which is most widely used in mental health, and the most widely researched intervention in the world-has a measurable and predictable impact on mental health. It is possible to apply some of these approaches and improve a depression and anxiety score such as to enable someone to work.

It is important that we pick up on the point, which noble Lords may not fully have understood, that we are dealing with people in a client group who are

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sometimes ill, but most of whom want to work. This is not me saying that-it is the expression of these individuals. They recognise that work is a powerful mental health improver. One in six people with serious mental health conditions currently work, and yet eight in 10 wish to do so. This means that there are 356,000 people with mental health conditions in the UK who wish to work but are not doing so. These people are inviting an intervention.

Although I recognise the seriousness of the Minister's remarks on this issue, there is a systems failure that we could resolve. This is not about people like me and my organisations coming up with credible solutions; we have to match those credible solutions with the policy and the practice of the DWP. That is why the amendment is so important.

While I am on the subject of the work programme, my discussions with Ministers often ended with the sentence, "It is early days"-and it is early days-but the days are running out.

9.30 pm

I underline the fact that those people in the position of working to primes do not have a great deal of confidence that there will be improvement. Only 8 per cent of third-sector subcontractors are confident that the work programme will hit its target. That is not good, in case noble Lords were wondering. Some 9 per cent of third-sector subcontractors felt that the work programme's payment system was adequate to help those furthest from the labour market. That is not good either. Many subcontractors are moving out of the work programme. My own organisation absolutely wants to contribute and we have the capability to deliver at scale, but we are worried whether we can do that. Even primes, to quote from a prime,

That is, for market reasons they are holding back the very clients that we need to help.

The matter is urgent and will not go away. I accept the Minister's confidence that the system will improve but I see people with mental health challenges every day who are desperate to work and who have to go through the rigmarole of jobcentre prime. They get lost and held in the system. That is unacceptable and it wastes money. I had no idea of pushing this to a vote until it was mentioned-that is not a bad idea but no. With the assurance of the Minister's open door and a joint approach to this, perhaps with others, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 62E withdrawn.

Amendment 62EA

Moved by Lord Freud

62EA: After Clause 140, insert the following new Clause-

"UK child poverty strategies

(1) Section 9 of the Child Poverty Act 2010 (UK strategies) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (7)(a)(i)-

(a) for "progress" there is substituted "measures";

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(b) for "needs to be made" there is substituted "need to be taken".

(3) In subsection (7)(a)(ii)-

(a) for "progress" there is substituted "measures";

(b) for "intends to make" there is substituted "proposes to take";

(c) for "in achieving" there is substituted "to achieve".

(4) In subsection (7)(b)-

(a) for "progress" there is substituted "measures (other than those described under paragraph (a))";

(b) for "intends to make" there is substituted "proposes to take";

(c) for "in achieving" there is substituted "to achieve";

(d) the words from "otherwise than" to the end are repealed.

(5) In subsection (8), for paragraphs (b) and (c) there is substituted "and

(b) give an account (in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate) of the effect of those measures, so far as relating to the purposes mentioned in subsection (2).""

Lord Freud: My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 62G, 62H, 62J and 62L, which have been brought forward to ensure that the commission's duty to report on child poverty in the UK does not duplicate the responsibilities of the devolved Administrations. They clarify that accountability for progress on devolved matters affecting child poverty will remain with the devolved Administrations. They have been developed in close consultation with those Administrations.

The Government have always been of the view that the new commission will be most effective if it continues to have a UK-wide remit. That is why it will continue to have a member appointed by a Minister from each of the devolved Administrations, in addition to the members appointed by UK Ministers. However, it is important that the commission does not unduly duplicate the scrutiny measures already provided by each of the devolved Administrations. We have therefore agreed that the annual reports will not present the commission's views on the progress of the devolved strategies. The reports will only describe the child poverty measures taken by the relevant devolved Ministers. This approach will ensure that responsibility for scrutiny of the content of the devolved strategies remains with the devolved Administrations.

Secondly, these amendments also enable Northern Ireland to join the commission at a later date, if the Northern Ireland Assembly passes a Motion to that effect and a Minister of the Crown makes a corresponding order. Until then, the commission's report is not required to comment on the Northern Ireland child poverty strategy, and the commission will not have a member appointed by the relevant Northern Ireland department. By giving the Assembly this option, this approach allows us to proceed with the commission for the rest of the UK, respects the rights of the Northern Ireland Assembly and ensures that we adhere to the principles of the devolution settlements while ensuring that the Sewel convention is not breached. These amendments ensure that we can create a commission which can sit effectively alongside existing devolved provisions and report on progress across the UK.

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Amendments 62EA and 71 clarify the provisions in the Child Poverty Act 2010 that set out the requirements for UK child poverty strategies. The Act requires each UK strategy to,

over the period of the strategy. The current UK child poverty strategy does this in detail. It sets out the radical package of reforms that the Government are introducing and provides a clear timeline for progress in terms of policy implementation. However, the strategy does not set interim targets for reductions in child poverty by the end of the three-year strategy period. We do not wish to incentivise the short-term income-transfer approach in which small amounts of moneys are given to families to lift them just over the poverty line. This is the easiest way to improve child poverty figures but it does not strike at the heart of the problem. This is what our reforms will do, tackling the root causes of poverty and providing a sustainable solution which will enable us to meet the 2020 targets.

This approach is absolutely in line with both the letter and the spirit of the Child Poverty Act. It is important to confirm in statute our existing understanding that the Act does not require progress in this context to be expressed in numerical terms or interim targets. These amendments will ensure that it is a matter for the Secretary of State to decide how the strategy should describe progress and make it crystal clear that a long-term approach such as that outlined above is in line with the requirements of the Act. These amendments will ensure that the commission does not duplicate the responsibilities of devolved Administrations and clarifies the requirements for child poverty strategies.

The Government see Amendments 62H, 62J and 62L as directly consequential upon Amendment 62G. However, further Divisions would be required should noble Lords wish to push the other amendments in this group to a vote. I beg to move.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I rise to speak to the amendments that deal with the devolved Administrations. I wondered until almost the last sentence that the Minister spoke exactly what the game was going to be. From what I understand, it will be mainly in terms of the avoidance of duplication. I do not know whether I have got that right-and perhaps the Minister can indicate whether it is mainly the avoidance of duplication, as opposed to giving anything additional with regard to the powers.

The 2020 target has had considerable enthusiastic support in Wales, but the progress has not always been as positive as one would have hoped. Of course, definitions of child poverty can sometimes be a problem, as I am sure that the Minister will immediately acknowledge. It is not just with regard to absolute levels of poverty; it is to do with relative levels as well. Perhaps the Minister will respond to this. One challenge is to get joined-up thinking between the devolved Administrations which have responsibility for social services, education, community services and local government. Many of the other responsibilities are in Westminster, particularly the economy and taxation and the transfer of resources. That is clearly important in cracking this problem.

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I welcome any steps being taken here that bring greater coherence and better working together between the various parts of these islands for that purpose. But I hope that something additional will come into the equation that enables greater progress to be made to eradicate child poverty, not just in Wales but throughout the UK.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we are supportive of Amendments 62G, 62H and 62K. As we have heard, Amendments 62G and 62H clarify the position with regard to the devolved Administrations and Amendments 62J and 62L do so with regard to Northern Ireland. The briefing note explains that Amendments 62G and 62J ensure that there is no overlap between the role of the commission and the devolved Administrations by ensuring that the commission describes rather than assesses progress on each of the devolved Administration's strategies. Could the Minister confirm, however, that the commission will still take a UK-wide view and ensure that it assesses progress across the whole country, including assessing where central government may need to take specific actions on those policies within its remit in a particular nation?

I listened carefully to what the Minister said about Amendment 62EA, clarifying the requirement in the Child Poverty Act for UK child poverty strategies to describe the process that the Secretary of State considers needs to be made by the end of the period. The department says that the amendment will confirm the Government's existing understanding that a description of the progress in narrative or policy terms meets the requirements of the Act. Perhaps the Minister can say a little bit more about this amendment. As I understand it, the intention of the Child Poverty Act was to ensure that the Government set out a strategy to ensure that this progress was made rather than simply describe, perhaps in numerical terms, what that progress would look like. We would be concerned if the effect of the amendment was to weaken the duty on the Government to set out such a strategy.

Lord Freud: My Lords, the amendment is intended to clarify the Child Poverty Act, not to change the substance or affect the law. It will make it absolutely clear that describing progress in terms of policy is entirely in line with the requirements of the Act. It does not alter current government policy on child poverty. The Government will continue to be required to produce a child poverty strategy every three years, setting out the measures that will be taken and the progress that needs to be achieved in that period. The purpose of the latter two amendments is simply to clarify how progress can be described.

To pick up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, the amendment will ensure that scrutiny of devolved matters relating to child poverty remains with the devolved Administrations, thus respecting devolution conventions. We will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that both the commission and the devolved strategies contribute to continued progress against the goal of ending child poverty.

Amendment 62EA agreed.

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Schedule 13 : Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission

Amendment 62F not moved.

Amendments 62G to 62JA

Moved by Lord Freud

62G: Schedule 13, page 151, line 32, leave out from "strategy" to end of line 34

62H: Schedule 13, page 151, line 34, at end insert-

"( ) A report under subsection (1) must also describe-

(a) the measures taken by the Scottish Ministers in accordance with a Scottish strategy,

(b) the measures taken by the Welsh Ministers in accordance with a Welsh strategy, and

(c) in the case of a report made after the appointed day for Northern Ireland, the measures taken by the Northern Ireland departments in accordance with a Northern Ireland strategy."

62J: Schedule 13, page 152, line 9, at beginning insert "after the appointed day for Northern Ireland,"

62JA: Schedule 13, page 153, line 3, at end insert-

"( ) A Minister of the Crown may, if the Commission so requests, carry out or commission research for the purpose of the carrying out of the Commission's functions."

Amendments 62G to 62JA agreed.

Amendment 62K not moved.

Amendment 62L

Moved by Lord Freud

62L: Schedule 13, page 154, line 29, at end insert-

"( ) After subsection (2) there is inserted-

"(3) In this Part "appointed day for Northern Ireland" means such day as a Minister of the Crown may by order with the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly appoint (and different days may be appointed for the purposes of different provisions of this Part).""

Amendment 62L agreed.

Amendment 62M

Moved by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

62M: After Clause 141, insert the following new Clause-

"Review into the impact of the calculation of universal credit

The Secretary of State shall conduct a review into the impact of the calculation of universal credit, to conclude one year after the coming into force of this provision, and shall publish a report on the review to both Houses of Parliament, on-

(a) claimants' ability to access childcare, and

(b) the impact on work incentives for second earners."

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, as has been repeated and endorsed many times, a main aim of universal credit is to make work pay. This amendment seeks to ensure that universal credit makes work pay for women and parents. At present, there are very real fears that, first, the cuts in support for childcare that the Government have introduced and, secondly, the

25 Jan 2012 : Column 1143

impact on second earners of the way that universal credit has been designed will mean that universal credit leads to fewer women entering or remaining in the workplace. The amendment therefore asks for a review of the impact of universal credit on claimants in these two areas, to enable us to monitor the extent to which such fears are justified.

I trust the Minister will not try and tell us that a review costs £1.4 billion-the figure he quoted on 17 January for a review of the introduction of PIP, admittedly with some trialling, which he told us was happening anyway,. He has of course yet to answer my subsequent query on how this figure was reached, but I urge him not to repeat it today. He also told us on 29 November that the Government were investing £2 billion to cover all the costs of implementing and operating universal credit, which is why the figure of over half that for an independent review of a different aspect of the Bill is a little hard to comprehend.

Nevertheless, we welcome the Government's support for the principle of reviews. In the case of child maintenance, according to the letter distributed to Peers mid-morning today, the Government's amendment to review the impact of all their child maintenance reforms 30 months after the introduction of charging to ensure that the reforms have driven the behavioural change anticipated shows a welcome willingness on the part of the Government to test the evidence to see whether they achieved their aims. This amendment seeks no less. It is to enable the Government to set out the evidence for their various changes and assess the impact on the families concerned.

9.45 pm

I turn first to childcare. We welcome the additional £300 million for childcare for those working fewer than 16 hours a week; it will help many to enter employment and ensure that work pays. However, that money does not compensate for the cuts experienced by those working above 16 hours a week. Help with childcare through the working tax credit has been cut from 80 per cent to 70 per cent of the costs. This is an average loss of £500 a year for 500,000 families and up to £1,500 for those who get the maximum help.

It is estimated that over 30,000 women have already left the workplace to look after their children simply because they cannot make work pay. These are the very same families who will be hardest hit by the decision to freeze the couple and lone parent elements of the working tax credit, making it even harder for them to make work pay. By the time the universal credit has been introduced the Government may have seen fit to reverse these decisions, but the amendment would provide a good and thorough analysis of the impact of childcare spending under the universal credit on families' ability to use childcare, which is so vital in enabling parents to go to work.

We believe that it is vital that both parents in a couple have incentives to enter employment. Women's employment, after all, has propped up family incomes to an increasing extent over the past 40 years. In fact, over that period, women's contribution to total household income has more than doubled, from about 11 per cent to 24 per cent in 2008.

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The second-earners issue is equally important because we know that child poverty is greatest in those couples where only one of them is in work rather than two. The need to consider the value of second earners and how to keep them was discussed in Committee, and the Minister was very sympathetic-his exact words were:

"I would love to do more, but I cannot find any more money".-[Official Report, 3/11/11; col. GC 468.]

The amendment accepts that, albeit reluctantly. It asks that the situation is monitored so that, when the money is found, the evidence is there for future decision-makers. I am sure that the Minister, as a great supporter of evidence-based policy, will accept this amendment, which I beg to move.

Lord Freud: My Lords, I have to admit that this amendment is not as expensive as the £1.4 billion PIP one, because the noble Baroness is looking to do the research afterwards rather than stopping it all and doing the research first, which would have delayed it. The reason why the PIP amendment was so expensive was the one-year delay, meaning that all those savings would not have accrued.

The intention behind this amendment is to allow discussion of the impact of the universal credit on both the accessibility of childcare and work incentives for potential second earners. Working families will be able to receive support in respect of 70 per cent of monthly childcare costs up to £760 for one child or £1,300 for two or more children. These amounts are equivalent to the current arrangements in tax credits.

We understand that childcare plays a crucial part in parents' work decisions and are determined to help those moving into the workplace, which is why we found the extra £300 million to help people below the 16-hour limit of tax credits. The childcare market is very varied and does not always effectively meet the needs of working parents. We are introducing flexibility into the system, such as through introducing monthly limits based on actual paid costs, so that it supports the childcare market better. Local authorities in England and Wales have the duty to secure as far as reasonably practicable sufficient childcare for working parents. The Department for Education is currently consulting on whether a local annual report would be a more effective and meaningful way of enabling parents to hold their local authority to account.

Let me move now to the concerns over the work incentives for potential second earners. My views on this are on the record. The costs are high. If couples who were both in work were entitled to an additional disregard of, say, £700 a year, the cost would be £240 million. If the disregard were £1,000, the cost would be £350 million. Those are the sums and we simply do not have them at this stage. Universal credit should mean that most families in which one parent works full-time for 35 hours a week for the minimum wage will not live in poverty.

The amendment asks us to confirm in legislation that we will undertake a formal review of both these areas. However, my real response is that these are just two particular areas. We will monitor the effect of universal credit right across aspect after aspect of its

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impacts. I have also included powers in the Bill to pilot different policy approaches. We will do that by having affirmative regulations to approve particular pilots. Any substantive changes following a pilot will also require regulations and be subject to the usual SSAC, so there are a lot of protections here.

It will not be a question of doing a review of something such as the second-earner incentive. I want to see a pilot in which we can pinpoint the value of moving it around. That is a far more useful way of finding out such things. What is the effect of the taper? What is the effect of the second-earner disregard? What is the effect of moving them around? We need to know all these things in a much more coherent way than we would from carrying out a review. We will have econometric analysis of a kind that leaves anything that we have seen in the past in the dust. Therefore, this requirement for a review and a report on specific impacts just creates unnecessary bureaucracy. That is not the way I want to do it.

To summarise, I hope it is clear that we are aware of these two issues, which are very important and interesting. I will continue to give them the attention that they deserve, and I therefore urge the noble Baroness to withdraw this amendment.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: Having had the promise of the intention to give these issues the importance that they deserve, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 62M withdrawn.

Amendment 62N not moved.

Schedule 14 : Repeals

Amendments 63 to 67A

Moved by Lord Freud

63: Schedule 14, page 165, line 19, at end insert "and "that Part of""

64: Schedule 14, page 165, line 23, at end insert-

"( ) in subsection (3A), "Part 1 of";"

65: Schedule 14, page 165, line 29, leave out "and (2)" and insert "(in both places), (2) and (2A)"

66: Schedule 14, page 165, line 29, at end insert-

"Section 1B(2)."

67: Schedule 14, page 166, line 51, at end insert-

"Section (Further entitlement after time-limiting)(2)."

67A: Schedule 14, page 175, line 33, at end insert-

"Part 14Standards of decision-making
Short title and chapterExtent of repeal

Pension Schemes Act 1993 (c.48)

In section 171A- (a) in subsection (2), paragraph (b) and the preceding "or"; (b) in subsection (3), ", or annexed to,".

Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (c. 6)

In Schedule 7, paragraph 3(3)."

Amendments 63 to 67A agreed.

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Clause 143 : Extent

Amendment 68 not moved.

Clause 144 : Commencement

Amendment 69

Moved by Baroness Lister of Burtersett

69: Clause 144, page 108, line 41, at end insert-

"(2A) Section 57 (entitlement of lone parents to income support etc) will come into force no earlier than 1 April 2013, and not before the implementation of universal credit."

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, said to me, "Trust you to have the last amendment". I am not sure that it was a compliment. Amendment 69 relates to the implementation timetable for Clause 57, which ends entitlement to income support for lone parents whose youngest child is aged five. This is to be introduced as soon as possible after the Bill receives Royal Assent. This modest amendment seeks only to introduce a delay to the implementation of the proposed change to ensure that it aligns with the planned introduction of universal credit, and to encourage the Minister to put on the record some concessions that would ease the situation of the lone parents affected.

Moving an additional 100,000 lone parents off income support and on to jobseeker's allowance when their youngest child reaches five is a short-sighted measure in the current economic climate. Increased conditionality and tougher sanctions serve only to add unwarranted pressure on lone parents, when suitable employment opportunities remain sparse and access to further education is curtailed by work-related requirements. Critically, lone parents who find work of less than 16 hours per week will be unable to take advantage of the new childcare support provisions for at least 18 months. This potent mix could leave lone parents stranded on out-of-work benefits and unable to secure the foothold they need to enter the labour market on a sustainable basis.

Longitudinal research with lone parents who had elected to move into employment and with their children underlines the importance of such a secure foothold. The research was carried out for the department and was indeed cited in a note that the Minister kindly circulated on the impact of maternal employment on schoolchildren. This note referred to the evidence in the research of how lone parents' employment can provide a good role model for their children. However, the research also found that that is not always the case. One of the researchers, Tess Ridge of Bath University, writes that,

In light of such findings, my advice to the Minister is: more haste, less speed. The long-term gains associated with requiring the lone parents of younger children to be available for paid work might be better achieved by adopting this amendment.

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As I argued in Grand Committee, gaining a level 3 or higher qualification makes a significant difference to the amount of money a lone parent can earn and increases their chances of upward mobility. Work search and work availability requirements will severely limit the ability of lone parents to gain qualifications and skills that could help them find higher paid employment that is sustainable, and to make the most of opportunities to progress once working. Currently, lone parents can receive a fee remission if claiming JSA. However, they are also required to continue to seek work while studying and be prepared to leave a course if offered employment. If they refuse, they face a payment sanction. It seems to me that in these circumstances work-related requirements inhibit, rather than enable, a claimant's ability to find better paid employment. This is an unintended consequence, I am sure, and is in fact preventable. Previously, lone parents on income support could complete a full-time further education course, up to and including level 3, when their children started school, and crucially before moving on to jobseeker's allowance-a benefit with significantly higher conditionality.

The prescribed circumstances in Clauses 22 and new Section 6F-inserted by Clause 49-should, I would argue, permit access to further education up to and including level 3, and training for responsible carers claiming JSA or universal credit. This means that, if undertaking a further education or training course, they should be treated as fulfilling work search and work availability requirements until their course ends or their child turns seven. This would allow responsible carers to "skill up" and increase their earning potential when their youngest child starts full-time education. This is entirely consistent with the Government's anti-child poverty and social mobility strategies, which emphasise the importance of education and training and the contribution they can make to ensuring that paid work represents the best route out of poverty. The Minister expressed some sympathy with the arguments presented in Committee when he was pressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, to write greater flexibility into the Bill. I wonder whether he has been able to give further thought to this and perhaps go rather further than he was able to in Committee.

Lone parents require jobs that allow them to be there for their children when they need them. With only one parent to do the school run, care for children when they are ill and support them with their school work, jobs with flexible working patterns are absolutely vital, as is access to affordable, high-quality childcare. On this point, the announcement that the Government will extend support for childcare costs to those working under 16 hours is very welcome. This is due to be implemented as part of universal credit from October 2013 onwards. The demand for jobs of less than 16 hours per week, so-called "mini jobs", is likely to increase as lone parents of five and six year-olds look for work that dovetails with their caring responsibilities. The extended help with childcare costs will be of particular benefit to this group of lone parents. However, unless the implementation of Clause 57 is delayed,

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100,000 lone parents of younger children will be unable to access it for up to a minimum of 18 months, if offered a job of less than 16 hours a week.

Finding the money to pay for childcare can be a significant hurdle for lone parents and is often the straw that breaks the camel's back when it comes to making work pay. Until very recently, responsible carers in short-hours jobs could access financial help towards childcare costs. Prior to April 2011, a time-limited discretionary in-work childcare subsidy payment was available for lone parents and partners on the New Deal and who worked less than 16 hours. This provision has since been abolished and incorporated into the flexible support fund. This is a generic pot of money for discretionary use by advisers to cover a wide range of claimant's needs and is available only when all other avenues of possible financial support have been explored.

Might I suggest that introducing an interim payment akin to the previous in-work childcare subsidy would be a positive work incentive for this group of claimants during the interim period? I am sure that Gingerbread, to which I am grateful for help with this amendment, would be keen to discuss the possibilities with the Minister, who has said that he always has an open door.

To conclude, there is a strong case for delaying the implementation of this policy to coincide with the introduction of universal credit in order for the Government to achieve their objectives. However, if this policy goes ahead as planned, it would require the kind of additional interventions that I have outlined, and I therefore hope that the Minister will look favourably on them and at the very least make a commitment to give them serious consideration. I beg to move.

10 pm

Lord Freud: My Lords, as noble Lords are aware, our focus is on supporting and helping to lift children out of poverty and improve their life chances by encouraging lone parents to enter paid work. Evidence shows that paid work is good for lone parents and their children in nearly all circumstances. Indeed, just under 80 per cent of lone parents with a youngest child aged five or six are either in employment, looking for a job, or would like to work.

Many lone parents consider making the transition to work when their youngest child starts school, and it is for these reasons that we announced our intention to align the age at which lone parents could reasonably be expected to look for work to when their youngest child reaches the age of five. This means that once a lone parent's youngest child reaches the age of five we would want the parent to claim jobseeker's allowance if they are capable of work. If they have limited capability for work, they would claim employment and support allowance, unless they are entitled to income support on some other ground, for example as a foster carer. If we delay carrying out this change and wait for the introduction of universal credit, we delay bringing these lone parents closer to the labour market, delay making any benefit savings but, more importantly, delay lifting more children in lone-parent households out of poverty.

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Picking up the point on the current economic situation, it is important that we do not repeat the mistakes of past slowdowns and allow people to slip into inactivity. In fact, one of the best things about this economic slowdown-and there are not many good things about it-is that we have not let more people fall into inactivity. In fact, there is less economic inactivity now than a couple of years ago. Maintaining our active labour market policies will ensure that people, including lone parents, do not become detached from the labour market and are well placed to benefit when the economy picks up again.

As noble Lords are aware, this is especially significant because, compared to a child of a lone parent who is not working, a child of a lone parent who works part-time is almost three times less likely to be living in poverty, and a child of a lone parent who works full time is five times less likely to be living in poverty. While we want lone parents to enter work, we do not want them to do so at the expense of their caring responsibilities. This is why we maintained the right for lone parents to restrict their availability for work to school hours, and we will retain all other flexibilities within jobseeker's allowance to ensure that lone parents can balance caring for their child while working. I described all those measures in Committee, and I shall not do so again given the lateness of the hour.

I stress that this initiative is an important lever in lifting lone parent families out of poverty. If it were delayed until October 2013, it would result in about 17,000 fewer lone parents being in work, which in turn would prevent increases in household income for up to 25,000 children. However, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I am conscious of the importance

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of putting together training and employment strategies. When I wrote my report in 2007, the two strategies were so far apart that they never met. They are moving together, and my view is that we should move them as close as we possibly can, so the door is particularly wide open to discuss with the noble Baroness and, perhaps, with Gingerbread how we can achieve that in the months and years to come.

With that explanation, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 69 withdrawn.

Amendment 70

Moved by Lord Freud

70: Clause 144, page 109, line 4, at end insert-

"( ) any provision of Part 4 (personal independence payment) or of Part 9 of Schedule 14;"

Amendment 70 agreed.

In the Title

Amendment 71

Moved by Lord Freud

71: In the Title, line 5, after "Commission" insert "and otherwise amend the Child Poverty Act 2010"

Amendment 71 agreed.

House adjourned at 10.06 pm.

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