Saturday, November 01, 2008

Lone Parent Home Educators' Benefits Update

From the second page of the report on the Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee (Thursday 30th October 2008), Kitty Ussher, the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Work and Pensions:

"The Conservative and the Liberal Democrat spokespeople rightly raised the issue of home educators. That gives me an opportunity to clarify our views in that regard, which is important. We completely respect the right of parents to home educate their children; however, we do not pay for them to do so. They carry on receiving income support if they wish to home educate their children. When I say that we accept the right of parents to home educate their children, that is as long as the local authorities consider the education to be suitable. That was tested through the courts; the case was Phillips v. Brown in 1980. If the education is not suitable, the local authority has the power to issue a school attendance order, but none of that is relevant in this case. I am simply clarifying that we are not attempting to make it harder for lone parents to home educate their children if that is what they seek to do and the provision is suitable.
I see no reason why a parent of a child over seven cannot successfully home educate their child and work part time. It is not common sense to presume that just because a child is at home, they are being educated all the time; nor should one presume that just because a child is home educated, they are unable to be cared for or appropriately looked after in child care when they are not in their lessons at home. That is why the provision applies to home educators.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is something of an anomaly, albeit perhaps an understandable one, that individuals can receive income support when they are working—namely, home educating? If they are taking the home education of their children seriously, that is work, yet they are also drawing income support.

Kitty Ussher: Perhaps the logical conclusion to the direction that the hon. Member for Hertsmere is going in is that someone should be paying the parent to home educate their child. We do not think that appropriate, although we recognise the right of people to home educate their children. An important point, however, is that at the moment appropriate child care may not be available for the hours of the day when home educators seek it in order to be able to take the work that is available. We consider that there will be a feedback loop involving Jobcentre Plus, the child care partnership managers and the local authorities to ensure that suitable child care is available for everyone seeking work, including home educators. I hope that that will lead to local authorities considering what atypical hours of child care they might be able to provide.

Jenny Willott: Will the Minister clarify whether Jobcentre Plus advisers will be given the discretion to take into account the fact that a parent is home educating a child? When considering what would be a reasonable job for them to take, will advisers be able to take into account not just child care issues, but the fact that parents are spending time home educating?

Kitty Ussher: Yes, but advisers will also take into account the fact that home educators have more flexibility in the hours in which they educate their children. However, there is no attempt for Jobcentre Plus advisers to say to people that, because they have to work, they cannot home educate. That is absolutely not the intention of what we are doing. None the less, home educators obviously have some flexibility in the hours that they are teaching compared to other hours when the children are at home and that will be taken into account when a Jobcentre Plus adviser considers the jobs that are available and the working hours for those jobs."


Anonymous said...

So, fundamentally, a single mother has to work even if she home educates and has to make use of child care...

Or have I misunderstood this?


Carlotta said...

It rather looks like it, yes.