Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Seventeenth Report


Part V - Welfare

CLAUSE 48 - EXTENSION OF ENTITLEMENT TO STATE MATERNITY ALLOWANCE

243. Clause 48 amends section 35 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 to extend Maternity Allowance payments to certain women who earn below the lower earnings limit for the payment of National Insurance contributions. It replaces the existing requirement for women to have paid at least 26 Class 1 and/or Class 2 contributions within a reference period with a requirement that her average weekly earnings in the reference period should be not less than the "maternity allowance threshold" (MAT) of £30 a week. Average earnings of less than the lower earnings limit and at least equal to the MAT will attract weekly Maternity Allowance payments of 90% of those average earnings, subject to a maximum of standard rate Maternity Allowance. Women with average earnings equal to or more than the lower earnings limit will receive the standard rate of Maternity Allowance. The measure also equalises the level of standard Maternity Allowance so that both employees and the self-employed receive the same rate.

244. The legislative framework for Maternity Allowance payments is set out on the face of the Bill. In the Department's view, the definition of earnings and the method of calculation should be in secondary legislation. Specifying earnings and the method of calculation by secondary legislation as described below will allow the provisions to be adapted should practical experience show that changes are needed. This approach follows the present legislative arrangements for Statutory Maternity Pay.

245. The new section 35(1)(c) provides that one of the conditions for receiving Maternity Allowance is that a woman's average weekly earnings are not less than the MAT. Subsection (4) of new section 35(A) allows regulations to be made to specify the period which may be used to establish what a woman's average earnings might be from employment as an employed or self-employed earner. It is also intended that the method of calculation will be set out in regulations. Subsection (5) sets out in more detail what the regulations may cover.

246. For women who are employed earners it is intended that regulations made under subsection (4)(a) will provide that the earnings used should be gross earnings on which National Insurance contributions are payable or would be payable if the earnings were high enough. This follows the definition which is already in use for Statutory Maternity Pay in the Statutory Maternity Pay (General) Regulations 1986 (S.I. No 1986/1960). For the self-employed it is intended that regulations will treat a woman who has paid a Class 2 contribution as having received earnings equal to the lower earnings limit in force for that week. In addition, to help the low paid self-employed, if a self-employed woman holds a certificate of Small Earnings Exception in a week in the reference period (subsection (4)(b) and (5)(c)), she will be treated as having earnings equal to the MAT applicable in that week.

247. Subsections 5(a) and (b) give further details concerning what the regulations made under subsection (4) may cover with regard to the period over which earnings may be calculated and the method of calculation. It is intended that earnings should be the average weekly earnings received or treated as received in a period within the 66 week employment test period. It is intended that an average should be taken of not less than 13 weeks and not more than 26 weeks earnings in the test period. The woman will be able to take account of her best weeks earnings when choosing which weeks earnings in the test period should count.

248. It is intended that regulations described in subsection (5)(d) will provide that if a woman has more than one job in a week, whether or not she is both employed and self-employed, then this will be taken into account when calculating her average earnings in the reference period.

249. Subsection (7) contains a provision for the Secretary of State to increase the level of the MAT if he wishes by order. The intention is that any such increase would be considered at the same time as general uprating is considered under section 150 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. Specifying limits and thresholds by order in this way follows a well established practice - it enables them to be adjusted annually in the light of movement in earnings without recourse to primary legislation.

CLAUSE 52 - CLAIM OR FULL ENTITLEMENT TO CERTAIN BENEFITS CONDITIONAL ON WORK-FOCUSED INTERVIEW

250. Clause 52 provides for the introduction of a mandatory work-focused interview (the scheme formerly had the working title of the "Single Work-Focused Gateway", but will now be known as ONE) into the benefits system for people of working age who are not in full-time employment. The clause provides the powers needed to require claimants for certain social security benefits to take part in work-focused interviews and the consequences of any failure to meet that requirement.

251. The clause inserts new sections 2A and 2B after sections 1 and 2 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 which deal with the requirement for a valid claim to be made in order to establish entitlement to benefit.

252. The power in section 2A(1) enables regulations to make provisions 'for and in connection with' imposing the requirement to take part in a work-focused interview as a condition of entitlement to benefit or continuing full entitlement to benefit. The clause goes on to identify particular issues which may be addressed in the regulations (set out below). The benefits to which this provision applies are listed in subsection (2).

253. It is intended to pilot the ONE service and the requirement to take part in work-focused interviews in 12 areas of the country. The likelihood is that the scheme will need to be adapted in the light of experience in operating the new arrangements. The detail of how the interviewing process will work will require detailed technical legislation. For these reasons the Department considers that these matters are appropriate to secondary legislation.

254. Subsection (1)(a) enables regulations to impose, as a condition of entitlement to benefit, a requirement on those making a claim to the benefits listed in 2A(2) to take part in a work-focused interview. It is intended that these interviews will normally take place at the point of claim, although subsection (6)(c) makes clear that interviews may be deferred where it would not be appropriate to require someone to discuss work-related issues at that time - for example, a person in the early stages of recovery from a major operation.

255. Subsection (1)(b) enables regulations to provide for interviews to take place where a relevant benefit is already in payment. It is intended that regulations will specify that claimants will be required to take part in interviews on the occurrence of specified events ('trigger points'), throughout the time benefit is in payment. For example, where the youngest child of a lone parent or widow reaches the age of five, or where a claimant receives the results of a Personal Capability Assessment, or where a claimant takes up or leaves part-time employment. Interviews may also be triggered where claimants have not taken part in a work-focused interview for a specified period of time.

256. Subsections (3) to (7) of the proposed section 2A set out in more detail the ways in which the regulation-making powers in section 2A(1) may be used:

Subsection (3)(a) enables the regulations to provide that where someone claims, or is in receipt of, two or more relevant benefits, separate work-focused interviews will not be required for each benefit.

Subsection (3)(b) enables regulations to determine who will conduct the interviews. The intention is to provide for work-focused interviews to be undertaken by representatives of the Secretary of State (most commonly employees of the Benefits Agency or Employment Service), or employees of a local authority or private or voluntary sector employee contracted to provide services to either.

Subsection (3)(c) enables regulations to provide representatives of the Secretary of State and local authority employees with the power to determine where and when interviews will take place. This broadly mirrors the provision in section 8 of the Jobseekers Act 1995. It is the intention that most interviews will take place at a range of easily accessible sites, but the proposed regulations will make clear that home visits will be allowed where this would be more appropriate than expecting the claimant to visit an office.

Subsection (3)(d) enables regulations to specify the circumstances in which a person is to be treated as taking part in or not taking part in the interview. It is proposed that the regulations will set out that the test of whether a claimant has taken part will be (i) whether they attend an interview at the time and place specified and (ii) answer questions in areas relevant to their employment prospects, such as educational qualifications, previous work history and current barriers to taking up employment.

Subsection (3)(e) and subsection (4) enable regulations to provide for appropriate consequences to ensue if a claimant does not take part in a work-focused interview when asked to do so. The regulations will identify the consequences. Where there is a failure to take part in an interview at the point of claim the individual will be regarded as having not completed the claims process and entitlement to benefit cannot, therefore, be considered. Where there is a failure to take part in a deferred initial interview the benefit award will be terminated. Where an individual fails to take part in a 'trigger point' interview there will be a reduction in the aggregate amount of benefit in payment. Using regulations in these sorts of cases follows the precedent in Jobseeker's Allowance, where regulation 25 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 (SI 1996/207) sets out the consequences of failing to attend an interview.

Subsection (3)(f) will enable regulations to specify what constitutes good cause for not taking part in the interview. It is proposed that the regulations will prescribe circumstances such as where someone is too ill on the day of the interview to attend or where a person has misunderstood the requirements placed upon them because of language, learning or literacy difficulties. The provision will be non-exhaustive to allow those undertaking interviews the flexibility to take individual circumstances into account. This approach of taking regulation-making powers to set out what constitutes good cause also follows the precedent in Jobseeker's Allowance, where regulation 30 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 covers good cause for failure to attend an interview.

Subsection (5) enables regulations to stipulate how the amount of reduction in benefit will be calculated, how it will be applied and how long it will last for. Regulations will also prioritise the benefits against which the reduction should be applied. The reduction will apply until such time as the claimant fulfils the requirement to take part in a triggered interview. Again this approach of taking regulation-making powers to set out reductions in benefit follows the precedent in Jobseeker's Allowance, where regulation 145 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 sets out the amount of reduction in hardship cases.

Subsection (6)(a) enables regulations to prescribe the circumstances in which the requirement to take part in a work-focused interview is not to be applied. It is intended to use this power to exclude claimants who are not of working age and those who are already in full-time work from the requirement to take part in work-focused interviews. Recipients of Jobseeker's Allowance claiming another relevant benefit will similarly be excluded as they are already subject to a work-focused regime.

Subsection (6)(b) and (c) enable regulations to provide for the requirement to take part in work-focused interviews to be postponed where it is determined that an interview would not be appropriate at that time, or waived altogether. Regulations will not specify which categories of people should have their interviews deferred or waived. Rather than taking action according to some pre-determined categorisation, staff will be expected to take into account the particular circumstances that each individual faces in deciding whether it is appropriate to waive or defer the requirement for an interview.

257. Section 2B enables regulations to confer rights of appeal against decisions given under regulations made by virtue of section 2A.

258. Subsection (1) enables regulations to provide for claimants to have a right of appeal against decisions that they have not taken part in a work-focused interview; that they have not shown good cause for not taking part; and a right of appeal against any decision to reduce the benefit in payment due to not taking part.

259. Subsection (2) enables provision to be made for decisions taken by, or on behalf of, local authorities to be treated, for the purpose of appeal rights, as made by the Secretary of State. This is to ensure that all decisions, whether made by a representative of the Secretary of State or a local authority employee are treated in the same way, with all claimants having a right of appeal to an independent appeal tribunal in respect of these decisions.

260. Subsection (3) extends the definition of "information relating to social security" to include information supplied as part of a work-focused interview in order to ensure that information gathered about a client's employability can be passed on to the personal adviser undertaking their interview.

CLAUSE 53 - OPTIONAL WORK-FOCUSED INTERVIEWS

261. Clause 53 enables regulations to make provision for conferring functions on local authorities in connection with conducting voluntary work-focused interviews. This clause will facilitate closer Government working and the regulations to be made under it will be used to enable local authorities to play a full and active part in the delivery of the ONE service (see clause 52).

262. The Department considers that secondary legislation is suitable for this purpose. This is because of the level of technical detail surrounding the precise functions to be conferred and the need to have flexibility to adjust those detailed functions in the light of experience of the ONE pilots.

263. The clause inserts new section 2C after section 2B of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (itself inserted by clause 52 of this Bill).

264. Subsection (1) enables regulations to confer on local authorities functions in connection with conducting work-focused interviews in cases where such interviews are voluntary. These may arise in two instances:

  • People making claims to benefit before regulations under clause 52 come into effect will be offered the opportunity of work-focused support from a personal adviser. It is their choice whether to accept the support.
  • Once regulations under clause 52 comes into effect claimants will be required to undergo mandatory work-focused interviews at specified points. In addition, claimants will be encouraged to participate in additional voluntary interviews, in between the mandatory interventions. This clause complements clause 52 by giving local authorities the power to undertake voluntary work-focused interviews.

265. The main functions to be conferred on local authorities are those set out in subsection (3).

266. Regulations under subsection (2) will enable local authorities to provide such assistance to those people making claims, or entitled to prescribed benefits. The Government intends to specify the following benefits in the regulations - Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Widows Benefit (and bereavement benefit which will replace it), Invalid Care Allowance and Severe Disablement Allowance.

267. Subsection (3) sets out that the main functions to be conferred on local authorities in connection with voluntary work-focused interviews will be specified in regulations. It is intended that regulations will enable local authorities to ask for, and record, personal information relevant for the purpose of the interview, including information about current and future employment needs and barriers to employment. It is intended that regulations will also provide that where such information is gained during the claimant's initial contacts, such information can be forwarded to the personal adviser who will conduct the interview (who may be a member of the Benefits Agency, the Employment Service or a local authority). The intended regulations will also enable local authority staff to undertake jobsearch activity with the client's consent at any stage of the work-focused interview process.

268. Subsection (4) enables regulations to confer these functions only on those local authorities within the twelve pilot areas of the ONE service, prior to any decisions about a wider roll-out of the initiative. Other local authorities will be unaffected by this provision.

269. Subsection (5) defines the term 'work-focused interview'. This mirrors the definition of the term in clause 52. It is intended that regulations will prescribe that the purposes of such an interview may be to assist or encourage claimants to enhance their employment prospects over time, and to identify and take steps to overcome the barriers to work they face through training and specialist support; so that, where appropriate, they can move towards sustainable employment. To this end, an interview may cover such areas as previous employment record, capacity to undertake work, the in-work financial support which is available and help in areas such as childcare, housing and training.

CLAUSE 54 AND SCHEDULE 7 - COUPLES TO MAKE JOINT-CLAIM FOR JOBSEEKER'S ALLOWANCE

270. Clause 54 introduces Schedule 7 to the Bill, which amends the Jobseekers Act 1995. It requires certain couples without children who wish to claim income-based Jobseeker's Allowance to make a joint claim.

SCHEDULE 7

271. Paragraph 2 amends section 1 of the Jobseekers Act 1995 which provides for entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance. It sets out the conditions that a joint-claim couple has to meet to be entitled to income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. The couple will be covered by these conditions for as long as their relevant circumstances remain unchanged, for example, until they find work or have a child.

272. The principle of requiring joint claims is set out in the Schedule. Having regard to the degree of detail necessary, and the fact that the enabling powers mainly mirror and adapt regulation-making powers in the Jobseekers Act to provide for joint claims, the Department considers these are matters which are suitable for secondary legislation.

273. Paragraph 2(3) inserts new section 1(2C) and (2D) into the Jobseekers Act. Subsection (2C) introduces a power to make regulations to prescribe circumstances in which a claimant who is a member of a joint-claim couple can, nevertheless, make a single claim for Jobseeker's Allowance. It is intended that this power should be exercised so as to enable such a claim to be made where one of the joint claimants fails to satisfy the conditions of entitlement for the joint claim. For example, where one member of the couple refuses to meet the availability for work conditions the other member, who is willing to meet the conditions of entitlement, will be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance for himself. If he cannot satisfy the contribution-based conditions, regulations will allow him to claim income-based Jobseeker's Allowance on his own behalf as a single claimant, although the couple's income and capital will be taken into account in determining the amount of benefit which is paid. The award of income-based Jobseeker's Allowance will be at the applicable single person's rate with no additional allowance for the partner who has failed to satisfy the conditions of entitlement for joint-claim Jobseeker's Allowance.

274. Subsection (2D) introduces a power to include members of a polygamous marriage within the arrangements for joint claims for Jobseeker's Allowance. It is intended that this power will be used to prescribe the detail of the arrangements in regulations. Where one or more members of the polygamous marriage is born on or after a specified date (which will be set to cover those under 25 at the time the measure is introduced) and there are no dependent children of any of the parties in the polygamous marriage, two members of the marriage will be required to make a joint claim. One of the joint claimants will always be the male partner, but the members of the marriage will be able to choose which of the wives will be the other joint claimant.

275. Paragraph 2(4)(b) contains a power in paragraph (b) of the definition of "a joint-claim couple" to specify which couples will be included in the requirement to make a joint claim. Paragraph (a) of that definition makes clear that couples with a dependent child for which they are entitled to Child Benefit are not included in the requirement. This excludes from coverage the majority of couples who have responsibility for a child. Additionally, it is intended that the power in paragraph (b) will be used to provide in regulations for some people who are responsible for a child, but are not in receipt of Child Benefit to be exempt from the requirement to make a joint claim. Regulation 77(2) to (4) of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 (S.I.1996/207) currently defines persons who are treated as responsible for a child. It is intended these people will be excluded from the description of a member of a joint-claim couple.

276. It is also intended that this power will be used to prescribe in regulations that, where at least one member of the couple is born after a specified date, the couple will be a joint-claim couple; the consequence of this will be that they must make a joint claim. The power will be exercised so that at introduction, where at least one member of the couple is aged 18-24, the couple will be covered. The provision will extend, over time, to a couple of any age, so long as they remain unemployed and without responsibility for a child. The main definition of a joint-claim couple is conveyed on the face of the Bill, but the Department believes it is appropriate for further detail to be included in secondary legislation. Regulations will also better provide for the date to be set for including young couples in the requirement to make a joint-claim by allowing flexibility in setting the date to ensure that the necessary operational support is fully in place.

277. Paragraph 4 inserts a new section 3A into the Jobseekers Act 1995, setting out the conditions for claims by joint-claim couples.

278. New section 3A(1)(e)(ii) enables circumstances to be prescribed in which a joint-claim couple may claim Jobseeker's Allowance if one member of the couple is aged 18 or over and the other member is aged 16 or 17. It is intended to prescribe the same circumstances as currently apply to a 16 or 17 year old claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, which are set out in regulation 58 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996.

279. Paragraph 7 introduces new subsection (1A) into section 8 of the Jobseekers Act 1995. New subsection (1A) mirrors existing section 8(1) of the Jobseekers Act 1995 and adapts it for the purposes of joint-claims. Section 8(1) provides for regulations to be made to specify the arrangements for a claimant's attendance at a jobcentre; for requiring a claimant to provide information about and evidence of his circumstances, his availability for employment and the extent to which he has been seeking employment. Section 8 (1A) (a) enables regulations to be made which require joint-claim couples to attend interviews either separately or jointly; in practice, it is intended to allow claimants to choose whether they wish to attend together or not. The intended regulations will mirror the attendance requirements set out in regulation 23 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996. The pattern of interviews will be the same as currently for Jobseeker's Allowance claimants. It is intended that regulations described in sections 8 (1A) (b), (c) and (d) will ensure that the same requirement that is currently placed on Jobseeker's Allowance claimants to provide information as to their circumstances, their availability for employment and the extent to which they have been looking for work, can be placed on each member of a joint-claim couple. It is intended to mirror regulation 24 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996.

280. Sub-paragraph (7) substitutes a new paragraph (c) into section 8(2) of the Jobseekers Act, adapting it for joint-claims. Regulations made under existing section 8(2)(c) may provide that entitlement is not to cease where a claimant, within a prescribed period (ie before the end of the 5th working day after the day on which he failed to comply), shows that he had good cause for failing to comply with a requirement to attend a jobcentre or to provide information about his circumstances, his availability or the extent to which he has been looking for work. It is intended to provide in regulations good cause provisions for joint-claim couples which mirror those in regulation 27 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996.

281. Paragraph 9 amends section 13 of the Jobseekers Act, which sets out rules concerning the treatment of income and capital in a claim for income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. The amendments adapt section 13 for the purpose of joint claims, introducing new subsections (2A) and (2B).

282. New subsection (2A) contains two powers, which mirror those already contained in existing section 13(1). It provides that a joint-claim couple will not be entitled to joint-claim Jobseeker's Allowance if the capital of either member of the couple exceeds the limit prescribed in regulations. This capital limit of £8,000 (£16,000 for those in residential care) is currently prescribed in regulation 107 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations and will be the same for joint-claim couples. It also contains a power to prescribe that part of the couple's capital should be disregarded. Regulation 108 and Schedule 8 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 currently set out capital to be disregarded and the intention is to extend this to joint-claim couples.

283. New subsection (2B), like existing section 13(2), contains a general rule that the income and capital of members of a family are to be treated as belonging to the joint-claim couple unless prescribed otherwise in regulations. The Government's intention is that the disregards which apply to the income and capital of current Jobseeker's Allowance claimants and their partners will also apply to a joint-claim couple.

284. Paragraph 10 inserts a new section 15A to the Jobseekers Act 1995 which, with existing sections 14 and 15, will adapt the current situation with respect to trade disputes to joint-claim couples. Currently a person involved in a trade dispute is not entitled to either contribution-based or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. However, the partner of the person involved in the trade dispute may make a claim for income-based Jobseeker's Allowance for herself and her dependants, but no part of the allowance is payable for the person involved in the trade dispute. New section 15A(4) contains a power to prescribe circumstances in which section 15(2) is not to apply for the purposes of calculating a claimant's entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance. This mirrors the existing power in section 15(1) which applies to single claimants, and it is intended that the same circumstances as are prescribed in regulation 171 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations would apply. These include cases where the claimant is a child or young person, is incapable of work or within the maternity period.

285. Paragraph 11 inserts new section 17(1A) which provides a power for the amount of income-based Jobseeker's Allowance payable to a joint-claim couple to be reduced where a member of the couple is a young person aged 16-17 years old and incurs a sanction. This new section mirrors the existing provisions in section 17(1). Regulation 63 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations sets out the provisions for reducing payments in respect of a 16/17 year old who incurs a sanction and it is intended that similar provisions will apply to a 16/17 year old member of a joint-claim couple.

286. Paragraph 13 inserts new sections 20A and 20B into the Jobseekers Act 1995. Section 20A deals with circumstances in which Jobseeker's Allowance is not payable. Section 20B is concerned with exemptions from the sanctions set out in new section 20A. In effect, these new sections adapt the provisions of the existing sections 19 and 20 of the Jobseekers Act 1995 to apply them to joint claims.

287. Section 20A(3) mirrors existing section 19(2). It applies to a member of a joint-claim couple who has, for example, failed to attend an employment programme or training scheme or has lost a place on such a scheme through misconduct. It contains a power to prescribe the length of the period for which the member of the joint-claim couple is to be subject to sanction and the starting point for the sanction period to begin. It is intended that the power will be used to prescribe the periods currently set out in regulation 69 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations, namely two weeks for a "first offence" and four weeks for a subsequent sanction. Sanctions will not be cumulative as between the joint-claim couple. For example, a four week sanction will only apply where one member has committed both offences, rather than one each.

288. Section 20A(8) re-enacts existing section 19(4) in relation to joint-claim couples. It provides a power to prescribe the circumstances an adjudication officer may or may not take into account when deciding a period for which a member of a joint-claim couple may be subject to sanction when he has, for example, voluntarily left employment without good cause or failed to apply for employment notified to him. It is intended that the power will be used to prescribe the circumstances currently set out in regulation 70 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations, which include the likely length of employment, the rates of pay and hours of work, and any mitigating circumstances.

289. Where both partners in a joint-claim couple breach Jobseeker's Allowance rules no allowance will be paid to them for the period during which both are subject to sanctions. However, where only one member of the couple is subject to sanction, section 20A(5)(b) contains a power which provides for a reduced payment to be made for the period of the sanction. It is intended that the power will be used to provide in regulations for an amount of Jobseeker's Allowance to be paid equivalent to that which would be payable if one member of the couple claimed Jobseeker's Allowance on his/her own behalf, provided he continued to meet Jobseeker's Allowance entitlement conditions. This will be an amount of income-based Jobseeker's Allowance equivalent to the rate of contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance if the claimant meets the Jobseeker's Allowance contribution conditions. If he does not meet the Jobseeker's Allowance contribution conditions, he will be paid an amount equivalent to the amount of income-based Jobseeker's Allowance that he would receive were he to make a claim for income-based Jobseeker's Allowance on behalf of himself only, taking into account the couple's income and capital in determining the amount. This ensures that the "innocent" member of the joint-claim couple is not unfairly penalised for the actions of his or her partner.

290. Section 20B (3) mirrors existing section 20(3). It contains a requirement to make regulations which allow either member of a joint-claim couple to accept employment and subsequently leave it during a trial period, without incurring a sanction for leaving employment voluntarily without just cause. Regulation 74 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations currently defines persons who can take advantage of this rule as claimants who have been unemployed for 13 weeks. It is intended that the same rule will apply to joint-claim couples. This subsection is associated with the power in 20B(7) to prescribe a trial period.

291. Section 20B (4) contains a power to prescribe the circumstances in which a joint-claim couple can receive an income-based Jobseeker's Allowance even though section 20A (which covers sanctions) prevents payment of Jobseeker's Allowance. It is similar to existing section 20(4) of the Jobseekers Act 1995. The provision in section 20(4) is currently used to provide in regulations for payments to be made to claimants if they can show that they or a member of their family would otherwise suffer hardship during the period of a sanction. It is intended to use the regulation-making power in section 20B(4) for the same purpose.

292. Section 20B(5) is equivalent to the provisions of section 20(5) of the Jobseekers Act 1995. It contains a power to make payment of Jobseeker's Allowance under subsection (4), during the period of a sanction, dependent on the claimant providing prescribed information. Regulation 144 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations simply requires that a claimant should provide the Secretary of State with information about the circumstances of the person in hardship. It is intended that this will be extended to joint-claim couples.

293. Section 20B(7) contains a power for regulations to specify the meaning of a "trial period". It is associated with subsection (3) which allows either member of a joint-claim couple to accept employment and subsequently leave it during a trial period, without incurring a sanction for leaving employment voluntarily without just cause. Regulation 74(4) of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 currently prescribes the trial period as the period between the start of the fifth week and the end of the twelfth week of a claimant's employment. It is intended that the same period will be prescribed for joint-claim couples.

294. Section 20B(8) mirrors the provisions of section 20(8) of the Jobseeker's Act 1995. The power enables regulations to specify the day on which a person's employment is to be regarded as commencing for the purposes of the trial period. Regulation 74(4) of the Jobseeker's Regulations provide that part-time work of less than 16 hours per week should not be counted as part of the trial period. Again, it is intended that this rule will also apply to joint-claim couples.

295. Paragraph 16(2) inserts new paragraph 8A into Schedule 1 to the Jobseekers Act 1995. This new paragraph mirrors the provisions of existing paragraph 8 which enables a person to be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance without having to satisfy all the Jobseeker's Allowance entitlement conditions. The intention is to use the power in new paragraph 8A(1) to prescribe in regulations the circumstances in which entitlement to joint-claim Jobseeker's Allowance would arise even though one member of the couple may not be able to meet all of the conditions. Examples would include: persons caring for another person; persons incapable of work; disabled workers; blind persons; pregnant women 11 weeks before confinement; persons studying full-time under certain circumstances; persons aged 60 or over; persons required to attend court; and persons in custody for trial or sentencing.

296. New paragraph 8A(2) provides for regulations to prescribe circumstances in which a couple is entitled to income-based Jobseeker's Allowance without having made a joint-claim for it. The power will be used to cover couples where a member is already in receipt of income-based Jobseeker's Allowance when Schedule 7 comes into force. The intention is that regulations will provide for the couple to be treated as meeting the Jobseeker's Allowance conditions of entitlement until the new claimant member of the couple is required to attend and provide information in connection with the joint claim.

297. Paragraph 16(4) inserts new paragraphs 9A, 9B, 9C and 9D into Schedule 1 to the Jobseekers Act 1995. These paragraphs contain powers to prescribe circumstances in which an award of joint-claim Jobseeker's Allowance:

  • should be treated as continuous with an award of income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance;
  • should lapse; and
  • may be revived without the need for the claimants to make a new claim.

298. These powers cater for Jobseeker's Allowance claimants who have a change of circumstance, which means they either cease to be a joint-claim couple or become a joint-claim couple. The underlying aim is to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy, and ensure that joint-claim couples are treated in the same way as other Jobseeker's Allowance claimants, whilst at the same time requiring a fresh claim where this is necessary.

299. Paragraph 9A contains a power for regulations to make provision for persons who cease to be members of a joint-claim couple. This includes a power to prescribe when an award of joint-claim Jobseeker's Allowance and an award of income-based or contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance should be treated as one continuous award. It is intended to use this, for example, where a joint-claim couple has a baby so the family are no longer required to make a joint-claim. They can move to a single claim for Jobseeker's Allowance. Regulations would provide that they were not required to make a new claim in these circumstances. Conversely, paragraph 9A also contains a power to prescribe the circumstances in which an award of joint-claim Jobseeker's Allowance should lapse. An example, is where a joint-claim couple separate and perhaps find new partners. In these circumstances it would be necessary to require the people concerned to complete new claim forms to provide full details of their new circumstances.

300. Paragraph 9B contains a power for regulations to make provision for persons who cease to be members of a joint-claim couple and then become members of a joint-claim couple again. It is intended that regulations will provide that where there is a short break in an award of joint claim Jobseeker's Allowance (for example, where a couple separate and get back together again within a short period) and the circumstances of the joint-claim couple have not changed, then the original claim may be revived.

301. Paragraph 9C contains a power for regulations to make provision for persons who become members of a joint-claim couple. It is intended to use this power, for example, in the tragic circumstances where a young couple receiving Jobseeker's Allowance lose a child. In such circumstances the Department would want to take account of the change of circumstances, but also give them a period of grace before they would be required to meet joint-claim rules.

302. Paragraph 9D(1)(a) contains a power for regulations to prescribe the manner of calculating a new or replacement award of Jobseeker's Allowance under paragraphs 9A to 9C. For example, account would need to be taken of any change of circumstance which altered the rate of benefit whilst, at the same time, treating an award as continuous.

303. Paragraph 9D(1)(b) ensures that provisions in regulations may require claimants to provide information or evidence. For example, joint-claim couples who have a baby may be required to provide evidence of the child's birth.

304. Paragraph 16(5) substitutes a new paragraph 10(1) of Schedule 1 to the Jobseekers Act 1995. This new sub-paragraph mirrors the effects of the existing sub-paragraph 10(1) but also adapts it to the case of joint-claims. Broadly, in cases where a decision on entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance is pending or payment has been suspended, paragraph 10 nevertheless permits entitlement to, and payment of, income-based Jobseeker's to prevent hardship to claimants or their families. Sub-paragraph (1) re-enacts the power in existing sub-paragraph (1) which enables regulations to provide for the circumstances in which a claimant is treated as being entitled to an income-based Jobseeker's Allowance when entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance has yet to be established. For example, where there is a delay in deciding a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance because it is not clear whether the claimant satisfies the Jobseeker's Allowance labour market conditions (availability for work, signing a Jobseeker's Agreement and actively seeking work) regulation 141 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996 allows payment of Jobseeker's Allowance to a person in hardship, until the claim is decided. The same provisions will be extended to joint-claim couples.


 
previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999