‘Penny-pinching’ government criticised over lone parents


The government has been criticised for failing to extend a vital concession to some lone parents of disabled children as part of its welfare reform bill.

The bill, which is completing its final stages in Parliament, includes measures imposing benefits sanctions on single parents who do not take steps to find work.

The government has decided not to impose these sanctions on lone parents who have children receiving the care component of disability living allowance (DLA).

But it has refused to extend this exemption to lone parents with children who only receive the mobility component of DLA.

Steve Webb MP, the Liberal Democrat shadow work and pensions secretary, said the government should extend the concession to all lone parents of children receiving “all components of DLA”.

He accused the government of “penny-pinching” and said it was a “mean-spirited decision”.

He said: “Lone parents who care for their disabled children already have a tough financial and emotional struggle.

“They do not need the local jobcentre breathing down their necks as well.

“These parents should not have to worry about losing their benefits if they do not want to leave their child with someone else whilst they go out to seek paid work.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman confirmed that the exemption would not be extended to parents with children receiving the mobility component of DLA.

Meanwhile, the autism bill – which aims to improve services for people with autism – has received royal assent, becoming England’s first impairment-specific act.

The health bill – which will allow the NHS to give patients direct cash payments to spend on their own treatment – has also received royal assent.

The government said this summer that these powers will be particularly useful in bringing social care and health budgets together for people with “particularly complex health and social care needs”, and could have the greatest impact on people with long-term conditions or mental health needs.

12 November 2009