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Tax Credit Renewal Deadline Monday 31 July

Tax Credit Renewal Deadline Monday 31 July

Your tax credit claim needs to be renewed each year. If you already receive tax credits HMRC will have contacted you asking if the details they have are still correct. You need to report any changes to your circumstances such as childcare costs, decrease or increase in the hours you work or the amount you expect to earn in the coming year.

The deadline for renewing your claim is Monday 31 July. To ensure you continue to get the correct amount of tax credits, avoid overpayments and underpayments you need to renew your claim before this date.

Contact HMRC on the Tax Credit Helpline 0345 300 3900, renew online or call the Lone Parent Helpline 0808 801 0323 for more details.

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Dundee visit by Keith Brown MSP

Dundee visit by Keith Brown MSP

Workers and parents from One Parent Families Scotland Dundee Family Support Services participated in an event on Wednesday 12th July with Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work was visiting Dundee to celebrate the Wise Group becoming the 845th accredited Living Wage employer in Scotland and to highlight the importance of the Living Wage in the Scottish and local economies. One Parent Families Scotland, already an accredited Living Wage employer,  in Dundee work in partnership with the WISE group to deliver support to single parents as part of a new Employability Pipeline Project in the city.

During a discussion session, parents seeking employment were able to put forward their views about the importance of receiving a decent wage to enable them and their families to have a good enough standard of living.

Kim McRae, OPFS Services Manager in Dundee raised the point with Mr Brown that whilst the provision of decent salaries, such as the living wage was highly beneficial to many families, what remained as a barrier to successful employment, as routes out of poverty for numerous families, was the lack of affordable, flexible childcare. Mr Brown agreed that whilst there have been some improvements in the provision of childcare; there was still some way to go.

One single parent, who has received support from OPFS, spoke of her gratitude to all of the agencies she received support from which has resulted in her securing employment. Without this support, this would not have been possible.

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Help to Pay for a Short Period of Childcare

Help to Pay for a Short Period of Childcare

Single parents working 16 hours, or more, per week can claim help with registered childcare costs from HMRC. This help is paid as part of working tax credit. The amount you get depends on your circumstances.

If you are using childcare regularly and often the costs will be averaged out over 52 weeks but you can also get help if you only need the childcare for a ‘one off limited period’.

You can ask HMRC for help with childcare costs for a specific period, such as school summer holidays or in an emergency, once or twice per year as long as you have a definite start and end date. This help can only be back-dated one month so you should claim it as soon as you start using childcare to avoid losing out.

Examples:

Jessica works 18 hours per week and has 3 children. She needs childcare every Easter, summer, October and Christmas to fit with the school holidays. Her childcare costs will be averaged out over 52 weeks as she uses childcare regularly.

Karl has 2 sons and does not usually need to use registered childcare as his father looks after the children while he works full time. Karl’s father is going on a 3 day trip, so Karl has found a childminder for that period. Karl can ask for help from HMRC to help pay for this as he knows the start and end dates and it is unlikely that he will need to use registered childcare again this year.

If you need more details you can call the Lone Parent Helpline 0808 801 0323, the Tax Credit Helpline (HMRC) 0345 300 3900 or see Gov.uk/ChildcareCosts

See Our Going Back to Work factsheet

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2017/18 Training Programme for Professionals

2017/18 Training Programme for Professionals

We’ve just announced more dates for our 2017/18 training programme for professionals working with single parents. Courses are booking now at a cost of £25 per session.  All courses will be held at our office at 100 Wellington Street, Glasgow.

There are three half-day courses available:

  • Universal Credit
  • Child Maintenance Service
  • Conditionality and Sanctions

Universal Credit

Updated for 2017/18, this course is aimed at professionals who want to understand how Universal Credit will affect the single parent families they work with.

This course covers:

  • Timetable for continuing rollout
  • The application process
  • The individual elements that make up Universal Credit
  • How the calculation works
  • Sanctions and Hardship payments

Basic benefit knowledge is necessary to get the most out of the session.

Glasgow dates:

Child Maintenance Service

With Child Support Agency cases being closed, parents will have to make a decision whether to opt for a family-based arrangement or use the statutory Child Maintenance Service for which there is a charge. This course will help professionals understand how the system works and prepare parents for the choices they will have to make.

This half day course covers:

  • The mandatory gateway
  • Charging for parents with care and non-resident parents
  • How child maintenance is calculated
  • Updating of maintenance assessments
  • Shared care arrangements

Glasgow dates:

Conditionality and Sanctions

Single parents are subject to conditionality once their youngest child is one year old.  This means they have tasks to perform in order to claim and remain entitled to benefits.

This course explains the pitfalls and how to avoid them by looking at:

  • The benefit claiming process
  • The Claimant commitment
  • Sanctions and Hardship payments

Basic benefit knowledge is necessary to get the most out of the session.

Glasgow dates:

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Two Child Limit – frequently asked questions

Two Child Limit – frequently asked questions

Since 6 April 2017 some benefits are now only being paid for up to two children per family. You may be concerned about what this means for you but not every family will be affected.

Here are examples of some of the questions we’ve been asked on the Lone Parent Helpline.

1. I already have 2 children and am expecting a baby boy in August. Will I get any benefits for my new baby?

As you already have 2 children and your new baby will be born after 6 April 2017 you will get some benefits for him but not the same as for your other children. The new rule means child tax credit, and housing benefit to help with rent, will now usually be paid for only 2 children so you will not get them for the baby. Child benefit and council tax reduction are not affected so will be paid for all your children.

2. I have 3 children and am getting child benefit, child tax credit, housing benefit and council tax reduction. Will these be reduced because I get them for 3 children?

You don’t have to worry about your benefits being reduced as the new rule only applies where the third child is born after 6 April 2017. Families getting benefits before this date will not be affected unless they already have 2 children and then have more after 6 April 2017.

3. My twins are due in June and I already have a son aged 3 and daughter of 7 years old. I get child benefit and child tax credit for them. What benefits will I get for my new babies?

One of the exceptions to the 2 child limit on tax credits is for multiple births. Parents who have no children, or one child, then have a multiple birth will have benefits paid for all of their children. Parents who already have 2 or more children then have a multiple birth will receive benefits for all but one of their children. As you already have 2 children you will receive child tax credit and help with rent for only one of your twins. In other words you will get child tax credit and help with rent for 3 children and child benefit and help with council tax for all

4. How will my universal credit be affected by the new ‘2 child limit’? I already have 3 children.

The new two child limit rule affects universal credit differently than it does child tax credit. There is a limit on how long you can receive universal credit for more than 2 children. As your children were born before 6 April 2017 it will continue to be paid for them all but only up to 31 October 2018. After this date your universal credit will be reduced so you will get it for only 2 children. If you have another child you will not get universal credit for that baby.

5. What is the ‘rape clause’ I’ve heard people talk about, and how does it affect benefits?

The rape clause describes one of the exceptions to the 2 child limit. It says that a mother will get child tax credits for the new baby if she can show that the baby was conceived as a result of abusive or controlling behaviour. She may need to provide evidence from a professional such as a doctor, police officer or a worker from a service such as Women’s Aid and must not be staying in the same house as the father when the baby is born.

A form, available from the GOV.UK website or from a work coach at the local jobcentre, called ‘Support for a child conceived without your consent’ (NCC1 4/17 pdf) needs to be filled out.

6. Are there exceptions to the 2 child limit other than for a multiple birth or a child conceived by force?

Exceptions also apply where a child has been adopted or there is a kinship care arrangement.

For more details on the information given here see www.gov.uk

If you need advice on your situation call us on freephone 0808 801 0323

 

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New Gingerbread report: ‘Children deserve more’

New Gingerbread report: ‘Children deserve more’

Gingerbread’s new report, ‘Children deserve more: challenging child maintenance avoidance’ has just been published.

The report shows how the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is unable and unwilling to ensure proper support for children. It highlights shows how current rules, and their implementation, mean many parents pay a fraction of what they can afford to support their children.

Headlines include:

  • The new CMS calculation falls short in assessing a paying parent’s income
  • Recent reforms have made it harder to get a fairer payment
  • The CMS leaves parents in the dark on their options – many give up.

Find out more and share the findings under #ChildrenDeserveMore.

 

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New Baby Box Registration

New Baby Box Registration

All new-born babies in Scotland will be offered a Baby Box.

The baby box scheme will be rolled out across Scotland in August, the Scottish Government has confirmed. All babies born on 15 August or after will receive a box with the essentials to help them get the best start in life. Pregnant mothers can register to receive the box at their midwife appointment after 15 June.

Inspired by Finnish baby boxes, the Scottish version includes around 40 items and the box doubles as a cot.

The boxes contain about 40 different items including a play mat, a changing mat, a digital thermometer, a fleece jacket, several baby grows, a hooded bath towel, a reusable nappy and liners, a baby book and an organic sponge.

The roll-out follows pilot projects in Orkney and Clackmannanshire which started on 1 January.  See full article at BBC.

 

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Scottish School Clothing Grant Campaign

Scottish School Clothing Grant Campaign

The 1980 Education Act specifies that local authorities must make provision for the clothing of pupils who would otherwise be unable to afford school wear. At present local authorities are responsible for deciding the eligibility criteria, the grant amount and application process. CPAG, Poverty Truth Commission and OPFS believe the amounts set are not enough to adequately clothe children for school, leaving families on low income struggling to get by. We believe that there should be a statutory duty on local authorities and a minimum amount of school clothing grant established in statute to make progress towards a more realistic contribution towards the cost of school clothing.

The school clothing grant is a lifeline for many low income parents in Scotland. While parents on the lowest income can receive some help by way of a school clothing grant from their local authority, in many areas the grant available is nowhere near enough to cover even the most basic items. The grant offered by local authorities can vary widely from £20 to £110 (Appendix 1 of the briefing). Through our consultations with parents we know that thousands of families across Scotland are struggling to afford the clothes, shoes, bags and kit their children need to go to school.

Please fill in the survey here.

Read the full briefing.

 

 

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Briefing Note for MSPs – Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill

Briefing Note for MSPs – Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill

As a member of End Child Poverty (Scotland) OPFS warmly welcomes the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill. We are extremely pleased that the Bill contains a duty to eradicate child poverty and that there are clear and identifiable targets about when this should be done. We particularly welcome the fact that the Bill proposes establishing four income based targets which will be measured after housing costs. We believe that focusing on income-based targets in this legislation is the correct approach.

OPFS also welcomes the publication of the Social Security Committee report on the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill.  In its Stage 1 report on the Bill, published on 22 May, 2017, the Social Security Committee issued recommendations for amendments. Along with other ECP members we believe many of the Committee’s recommendations would strengthen the Bill.

Download and view the full briefing.

Read our response to the Scottish Government initial consultation on the Child Poverty Bill  here.

 

 

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End Child Poverty Briefing for Stage 1 Debate: Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill

End Child Poverty Briefing for Stage 1 Debate: Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill

This briefing is produced by members of End Child Poverty (ECP) in Scotland including the Child Poverty Action Group, The Poverty Alliance, Barnardo’s Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Children 1st and Children in Scotland.

Key Points

  • We fully support the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill. We also welcome the Social Security Committee Stage 1 report which makes a number of welcome recommendations.
  • Progress towards the 2030 target will be more challenging unless there is a requirement that local authorities and health boards set out their strategic approach to tackling child poverty in their areas. The Bill should contain a duty which addresses this issue.
  • We agree with the Committee that this is a framework Bill and that setting targets will not, of itself, reduce child poverty. Nevertheless, scrutiny of what measures are in place is essential. As such we welcome the committee’s recommendation that a commission should be established on a statutory footing. The Scottish Government’s proposed Poverty and Inequality Commission represents the opportunity to do this.
  • We are particularly pleased that the Committee have recognised the need for interim targets towards 2030 target and that the delivery plans should have a set of key areas that Minister’s should have to include which were outlined by End Child Poverty.

The Stage 1 report from the Social Security committee represents another step towards ensuring that the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill provides the most effective framework to contribute to tackling the poverty that affects increasing numbers of children and families. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimate that relative child poverty will rise from 29 per cent in 2014–15 to 36% in 2021–22[1]. That is why we believe that every aspect of efforts to tackle child poverty should be subject to scrutiny to ensure that what we are doing locally and nationally is effective. This briefing sets out three areas where End Child Poverty thinks the Bill could be strengthened at Stage 2.

The need for a strategic, forward-looking duty on local authorities and health boards

As it is currently drafted, the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill 2017 places a duty on local authorities and health boards to produce “local child poverty action reports”. These reports would describe action taken in each local authority area in the last year for the purpose of contributing to the achievement of the child poverty targets. While incorporation of local authorities and health boards in the legislative framework is hugely welcome, we are concerned that section 10 is insufficient in that it is retrospective, requiring local authorities to describe what they have done rather than plan for future actions.  ECP believe the key to meeting the 2030 target will be how local activity to tackle child poverty is linked to the actions that Scottish Ministers will take. A concerted national and local approach is vital. As such the legislation should ensure there is a clear duty on local authorities and health boards to take a strategic approach to reducing child poverty in their area – as well as reporting annually on the steps they have taken to achieve this.

We believe that the Bill could be amended to include a duty on local authorities and Health Boards which would require them – in association with their community planning partners – to set out what actions they will take to contribute to achieving the targets.  These plans could be submitted to Ministers at the same time as the local child poverty action reports.

The need for independent scrutiny
End Child Poverty very much welcome the committee’s recommendation that a commission should be established in statute. We believe that there is an opportunity to do this with the proposed Poverty and Inequality Commission.  We note the evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities that timing of establishing a statutory commission could be an issue. We believe that establishing a commission as the Committee suggests would ensure the level of independence and resource required for the commission to be effective. As such it should be possible to set up shadow arrangements whilst the statutory requirements of appointments and other aspects are progressed. The Scottish Welfare Fund was established in the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015 and was operational before the legislation was enacted. The independence of a commission is vital. Oxfam Scotland in a recent report on what the Poverty and Inequality Commission would look like said “It should be fully independent of the Scottish Government, both in practice and perception. Consideration should be given to placing the commission on a statutory footing, with it reporting directly to the Scottish Parliament”[2] As well as wider functions in relation to poverty and inequality the commission should advise Ministers’ on the level of interim targets, the development of delivery plan’s and report to parliament on the commission view of progress made towards meeting any interim target and the 2030 target.

Delivery Plans
End Child Poverty has made the case that the contents of the delivery plans are linked directly to achievement of the proposed child poverty targets. We believe that delivery plans should describe how the Scottish Government will use all of the major financial and policy tools at its disposal to progress towards these targets. We are therefore very pleased that the committee has recommended that the Scottish Government brings forward an amendment at Stage 2 to include the five areas suggested by End Child Poverty as being a requirement for inclusion in delivery plans.

These five areas are:

  • the full use of Scottish social security powers
  • the provision of information, advice and assistance to parents and carer in relation to welfare rights and income maximisation
  • the provision of suitable and affordable housing
  • the availability of childcare
  • the facilitation of employment for parents and carers

The Scottish Government would then be obliged to set out in its delivery plan how action in each of the areas will contribute to the eradication of child poverty.

For more information contact: Eddie Follan

eddie.follan@barnardos.org.uk     Tel 07810854165

[1] Institute for Fiscal Studies. (2017). Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK: 2016–17 to 2021–22.

[2] Oxfam Scotland: http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/building-a-more-equal-scotland-designing-scotlands-poverty-and-inequality-commi-620264

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