21 November 2013

Lone parents hit by benefit cap gain vital work and skills training

Lone parents struggling to cope with benefit reductions are getting practical advice on childcare, increasing their income as well as vital skills to find work.

The city’s first 'work readiness' event was held this month with a handful of the hundreds of parents who are seeing their benefit reduced as families struggle to pay their rent.

The Government’s benefit cap, which limits total benefit to any out of work family to £500 per week, is seeing hundreds of families struggle to pay for food and rent.

With a 27% rise in private sector rents in the last year alone, private landlords, who have to give 8 weeks notice to quit, have started issuing eviction notices and this threatens to force families into more expensive temporary accommodation.

In Brighton & Hove, more than 200 families have had their benefits cut with 75% of those being lone parents and 65% having children under 5.

Brighton & Hove City Council is carrying out visits to all those capped by more than £25 per week, working with key partners to assess their options in the face of significant benefit cuts. Options include getting back into the workplace, applying for additional help and support, including disability benefits and improving money management skills.  

The day introduced a nine week course to prepare affected single parents for work. Run by experts Pinnacle People, the first 4 weeks will be 2 days a week, 4 hours a day, covering: building confidence, managing finances, CV and cover letter writing, interview preparation and techniques, barriers to work, managing personal health, budget issues, debt management, stress management and identifying further training needs.   
The next 4 weeks will be a work placement of up to 16 hours per week and finally the last week will be a follow up to help with job searches, ensuring all have a CV, references,  and a good understanding of childcare facilities in the city.   The sessions will all be at the Tarner Children’s Centre with crèche facilities.   
Cllr Bill Randall, chair of the Housing Committee, said:

“We are working as hard as we can to help all households affected by benefit cuts through emergency housing payments and other benefits advice as well as specialist training and advice to help get them into work such as this event to help parents improve their finances and get into work.”

Maria, who has two young children and gained vital advice at the Work Readiness event, said:

“The benefit cap has made things more difficult. It was difficult anyway with two young children. I have had to budget on food, on the gas and electric we use, I am walking more which is keeping me fitter but sometimes I get to appointments late because I am rushing everywhere and don’t have transport. It’s quite a lot of stress really and has made me more anxious and worried about things at the moment.

“Both my children like to eat healthily so I have to buy fruit and veg which is good but I worry everyday if I have got enough money so that I can get these things for them.

She said after the morning Work Readiness session she already feels motivated to find work knowing that there is things like childcare available to her.

“I already feel more motivated and inspired that there is help and I don’t have to worry so much. There is support there for me to get a job now so I feel reassured that I am going to get help and support to find work.”

If you are affected by Welfare Reform changes and are interested in applying for a place on the course in January, please ring (01273) 290429.