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Lone parents on Income Support whose child is aged five or over are being informed by letter from 23 March that, starting from May 2012; if they are able to work they will need to move from Income Support to Jobseeker’s Allowance, where they will receive extra help to return to the workplace. Currently this change takes place when a lone parent’s child is aged seven.

There are 1.8m children living in households where no one works and around 600,000 lone parents relying on Income Support. A child of an out-of-work lone parent is almost three times more likely to be in poverty than those where the lone parent works part-time.

Steve Webb, Minister for Pensions, announced details of two changes that will be introduced to the Crisis Loan scheme from 9 April 2012. These changes are part of a programme of work before elements of Crisis Loans are transferred to local welfare provision, and delivered by local authorities, from April 2013.

From 9 April 2012, these changes are being made:

  • Maximum Crisis Loan awards in relation to living expenses will be reduced from 60% to 30% of benefit allowance rate for all non-householders. Householders and people without accommodation will continue to receive maximum awards based upon 60% of their benefit personal allowance rate.
  • Crisis Loans will be given to alleviate hardship because Child Tax Credits have been awarded but have not yet been paid so will be treated as alignment payments. These awards will be exempt from the cap that restricts Crisis Loan living expense awards to three months in a 12 month rolling period. 

Analysis of latest figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) indicates that:

  • The number of Housing Benefit claimants reached a new high of 4.95 million in December 2011
  • In-work households accounted for almost all (93 per cent) of the increase in the number of claimants during 2010 and 2011
  • In December 2011 almost one in four households who rented their accommodation and were in employment received Housing Benefit

The growing number of in-work Housing Benefit claimants will have a considerable impact on government policy. In 2011 the number of additional in-work claimants is likely to have increased overall Housing Benefit expenditure by £490 million.

New statistics published today show an increase in the number of people starting an apprenticeship. Provisional data shows that in the first half of the 2011/12 academic year (August 2011 to January 2012) 256,500 people started an apprenticeship, including 79,100 young people (aged under 19), 77,100 19-24 year olds and 100,300 adults aged 25 or over. 

Official new figures reveal more than half of Britain’s young, black men are unemployed — the worst-hit group and double the number four years ago. The Runnymede Trust’s 2009 bulletin, Race and the Repercussions of Recession, stated that “the onset of the current crash hit black and ethnic minorities harder than the national average worker”. This report predicted that unemployment would rise among black and ethnic minorities during the recession, especially for “those whose employers decide not to favour them because in hard times they might be tempted to look after their own”.

Almost 150 new judges are being paid more than £400 a day to rule on cases brought by people who dispute the assessment that they are fit to carry out some work, denying them sickness benefits.

The cost of the judges’ salaries has already risen by more than £15m in the past two years and is said to rise still further next year when disabled people’s benefits are overhauled, while a backlog of cases has already built up.

Top 10 youth employment black spots, February 2012

Local authority

Region                

Claimants       

Rate   

Blaenau Gwent

Wales

1,270

19.3

Hartlepool

North East

1,440

17.3

Merthyr Tydfil

Wales

865

16.8

Sandwell

West Midlands

4,505             

16.6

Redcar andCleveland    

North East          

1,995

16.5

Wolverhampton

West Midlands

3,760

15.7

South Tyneside

North East

2,290

15.4

Caerphilly

Wales

2,335

15.3

Walsall

West Midlands

3,515

15.2

North Ayrshire

Scotland

1,750

14.8

The Federation and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust have been working with housing associations in former mining communities across the North and Midlands to offer apprenticeship posts for a minimum of one year. The placements start next month, and are set to offer apprenticeship posts for nearly 50 young people.

The First Minister today announced that the Scottish Government has successfully delivered its commitment to support 25,000 new apprenticeship starts in 2011/12. This is a record number of new Modern Apprenticeships starts in a single year and confirms delivery of the first year of the commitment to provide 25,000 apprenticeship opportunities in each year of the current Parliament.

Tougher standards introduced by Skills Minister to drive up quality

Apprenticeships will last for a minimum of 12 months guaranteeing improvements in training and workplace learning, Skills Minister John Hayes announced today.

The new standards will come into force for all age groups from August 2012, subject to consultation with providers and employers, as a further measure to drive up quality.

For those aged 19 and over apprenticeships will last between one to four years unless prior learning or attainment has been recorded. Apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds will last a minimum of 12 months without exception.