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Universal Credit to result in Christmas catastrophe for families

Universal Credit to result in Christmas catastrophe for families

The roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) has been criticised by charities and campaigners over five-week delays for payments. New benefit claimants in Glasgow will need to wait till January for payments. Although advance payments are available these must be paid back once benefits are received.

Marion Davis, head of policy for OPFS, said: “Delays in payments, administrative errors and problems with childcare payment for parents in paid work have left some families almost destitute.

“Hunger, anxiety, shame – the UC catastrophe is hitting single parents hardest of all. We know some single mothers are facing a grim Christmas.”

The UC system was severely criticised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Prof. Philip Alston, during his recent UK visit. He had called on the UK Government to halt the delays to payment immediately.

The newly released Joseph Rowntree Foundation Poverty 2018 report found poverty among one parent families is rising four times as much as two parent households. It found nearly half of children in lone-parent families live in poverty (49%) compared with one in four of those in couple families (25%).

Satwat Rehman, Director OPFS, said: “The research in the JRF report ties in with our own findings about the ‘Single-Parent Penalty’ and sadly comes as no surprise. Poverty restricts people’s lives in multiple ways and single parent families are disproportionately affected with almost twice as many of the children living in poverty compared with those in couple families.

We need to turn compassion into action. We need to put this situation right so that single parent families have a decent standard of living that allows them to grow and progress in their lives. Poverty exists in Scotland and affects us all, it restricts people’s ability to take part in society, and it can be solved by boosting incomes and reducing costs of living.”

See more.

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Free Interpreting Available on OPFS Lone Parent Helpline

Free Interpreting Available on OPFS Lone Parent Helpline

Do you know any single parents seeking an interpreter to equally access telephone advice?

Many single parents seeking advice would like to use an interpreter because English is not their first language.
One Parent Families are pleased to announce that we now offer live interpreted advice via 3-way calling between a caller, an interpreter and an OPFS adviser on our Lone Parent Helpline.

We strive to ensure those with English as a second language can equally access advice and become:

  • Better informed;
  • More knowledgeable;
  • Better able to cope;
  • Less isolated;
  • More empowered to make decisions;
  • Aware of ways to improve their finances.

If you, or someone you know, do not speak English as a first language, we can provide an interpreter in one of 250 languages. Phone the free Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 and tell the adviser which language you require. We will immediately connect you to an interpreter and you will be able to talk to the adviser and the interpreter at the same time.

 

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OPFS Becomes an SFHA Supporting Associate

OPFS Becomes an SFHA Supporting Associate

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, the membership body for housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland, has welcomed OPFS as its newest ‘Supporting Associate’. Our Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS) service works with Abertay Housing Association to provide childcare services specifically designed to meet the needs of the community in the Fintry area of Dundee.

See full story at SFHA website.

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Best Start Scotland

Best Start Scotland

Best Start Grant first payments due December 2018

The Scottish Government is replacing the Sure Start Maternity Grant with the new Best Start Grant. The first payments are due to begin in December 2018. Applications will open on 10th December 2018. This should take 5-10 working days to process, and the first payments will be made before Christmas 2018.

To apply call 0800 182 2222 or apply online.

If you are expecting a baby now, or had a baby since 25 June 2018, and have not yet applied for a Sure Start Maternity Grant, it may be worth waiting to apply for a Best Start Grant instead, as it is worth £100 more. You should make sure you apply for one of them within six months of the baby’s birth.

The Best Start Grant will include 3 different grants:

  • The pregnancy and baby grant- to help with the costs of pregnancy or having a new baby. Qualifying families will receive £600 from 25th week of pregnancy to 6 months after the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any following children
  • The early learning grant– A payment of £250 when your child starts nursery
  • The school age grant– A further payment of £250 to help with the additional costs when your child start school

The early learning grant and the school age grant are expected to be paid from summer 2019.

Who can get it?

You’ll be eligible for best start grant if you get any of the following benefits:

  • Universal credit
  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit
  • Housing benefit
  • Child tax credit
  • Working tax credit

If you’re under 19 and someone else is claiming child benefit, child tax credit or universal credit for you, you’ll be eligible for best start grant regardless of income.

People who have adopted a baby or who have started looking after a baby as a kinship carer can also apply for the grant. They will have until the end of the day before the child’s first birthday to apply.

If you have twins or a multiple birth £600 is payable per child, if you have no other children living with you. If there are other children living with you, it is £300 per child in a multiple birth, plus one supplement of £300.

How to claim

Apply to the Scottish Government. Scottish Government Best Start Grant.

Best Start Foods 

Healthy Start vouchers will become known as Best Start Foods by summer 2019.  The paper vouchers will be replaced by prepaid digital smartcards. The weekly allowance will rise from the current £3.10 to £4.25. These can be used for milk, fruit, vegetables and vitamins for pregnant women and eligible families.

Find out if you qualify for Healthy Start Vouchers.

Baby Box

All new-born babies in Scotland are entitled to a baby box. The box contains useful items and can also be used as a safe place to sleep. When you’re about 20-24 weeks pregnant your midwife will fill in a baby box registration card with you. The box will be delivered to you 4 weeks before your baby’s due date. Scotland’s Baby Box. 

See our Maternity Rights factsheet for income and benefits for single parents in Scotland.

Call or email the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 if you need advice.

 

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Reducing Impact of School Holidays on Family Poverty and Food Insecurity

Reducing Impact of School Holidays on Family Poverty and Food Insecurity

In 2018 single parents and family groups in Cranhill Glasgow came together through a participatory budgeting project with the support of Scottish Government Community Choices funding. One Parent Families Scotland and the Cranhill Development Trust used a Participatory Budgeting approach to reducing the impact of school holidays on family poverty and food insecurity. Six exciting projects received funds to provide food for the family and activities for the duration of the summer. Hear their stories about the experience.

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Letter to UN Special Rapporteur Following Scotland Visit

Letter to UN Special Rapporteur Following Scotland Visit

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, visited Scotland last week to inquire into rising levels of poverty and hardship across the UK. Poverty is the biggest human rights issue facing children in Scotland. Between 2014 and 2017, around 19% of Scotland’s population were living in relative poverty after housing costs.

Professor Alston met with OPFS and partner organisations including CPAG Scotland, Parenting Across Scotland, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), Children in Scotland and the Scottish Refugee Council to talk about child poverty in Scotland and the importance of incorporating the UNCRC to ensure a child rights-based approach to tackling it. Read the joint letter below.

Satwat Rehman, director of One Parent Families Scotland said: “There’s lots of very good work going on but we have yet to understand what the cumulative impact will be. For example, with efforts to get more parents into work, will the link be made with public transport availability and affordability and childcare that is also affordable, available locally and fits with the hours parents have to work? It’s that kind of joining up on a micro level that is needed. For families already sinking deeper into poverty because of ongoing welfare cuts and the effects of austerity, 2022 is too late.”

See the Together blog on the visit.

Letter to Special Rapporteur

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What does the autumn budget mean for you?

What does the autumn budget mean for you?

Universal Credit Changes

Two major announcements were made in the Autumn budget.

Firstly, the Government committed to additional protections for people transitioning to Universal Credit. These plans are yet to be finalised, and we will update this page when there is more news.

Secondly, the Work Allowance in universal credit will be increased by £1,000 per year from April 2019. This will make single parent families better off, as less of your earnings will be taken into account when working out how much universal credit you will receive.

From October 2019 claimants can repay universal credit over-payments and debts more slowly (from 40% of the standard allowance to 30%).

From October 2021 people will have longer to repay advances. This period will increase from 12 to 16 months.

Changes to other benefits

Jobseekers’ Allowance, ESA and Income Support will roll on for the first fortnight of a Universal Credit claim, where otherwise they would have stopped. This will be effective from July 2020, and benefit around 1.1 million claimants.

The Government is extending the 12 month grace period (the period before the Minimum Income Floor applies) to support all gainfully self-employed people. This will be introduced from July 2019 and implemented fully from September 2020.

Increased Tax Allowance

The personal tax allowance will be increased from £11,850 to £12,500 in April 2019. This means you will not have to pay tax on anything you earn under this figure.

Increased Minimum Wage

The Minimum Wage will increase from £7.83 to £8.21 in April 2019.

New Enterprise Allowance

The New Enterprise Allowance will be extended to offer training and allowances to help you start your own businesses to 2021.

See BBC budget calculator

Call or email the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 if you need advice.

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Benefits for children born after April 2017

Benefits for children born after April 2017

Not all benefits paid for children are affected by the 2 child limit. If you are not receiving child tax credit or the child element of universal credit for a third or subsequent child you may still be entitled to the following benefits for them:

  • child benefit
  • disability living allowance or personal independence payment
  • extra amounts added to child tax credit or universal credit for a child with a disability and these additions taken into account when calculating housing benefit
  • childcare costs

All of your children will be taken into account when calculating the size of home you need even if you do not get housing benefit for them all. Remember you can always ask your local council for discretionary housing payments if you are having difficulty paying your rent.

All children will also be counted when calculating your council tax reduction.

See Can you get help with childcare costs if you have more than 2 children

Call the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 if you need advice.

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Carer’s Allowance Supplement Scotland

Carer’s Allowance Supplement Scotland

The Scottish Government is paying a £442 per year supplement to people in receipt of carer’s allowance.

A new benefit to replace carer’s allowance, called Carer’s Assistance, will be introduced which pays the same amount as income support and jobseekers allowance.

Until this benefit is available carer’s will receive the supplement to top up their existing carer’s allowance.

If you are receiving carer’s allowance at the moment you do not need to claim the supplement. It will be paid automatically. It is paid in two equal amounts of £221.

The first payments were paid in September, and should have reached all eligible carer’s by the end of October.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the second payment of carer’s allowance supplement will be made in December 2018.

This money will not affect any other benefit you are receiving.

See Carer’s Allowance Supplement for more information. You can call the Carer’s Allowance Supplement helpline on 0800 182 2222.

Call or email the Lone Parent Helpline on 0808 801 0323 if you would like to speak to an adviser. See related factsheets Disability Benefits for Single Parents and Money for Single Parents.

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Christmas Countdown

Christmas Countdown

The Christmas holiday is one many people look forward to. It can be a wonderful time but can also bring stress and worry. Preparing for Christmas in advance can help make it more manageable.

Below are a few ideas, suggestions and services that may be useful.

Budgeting

Set a budget and stick to it. Look at your finances and decided what you can afford to spend. Don’t forget to factor in the extra you may need for food, fuel, phones, social events and travel. It is very easy to get into debt but keep in mind this needs to be paid back in the new year so be realistic.

Christmas 2019 may be the last thing on your mind at the moment but it’s a good idea to start to saving now for next year.

Useful contacts

  • If you do find your struggling over the holidays you can get help from your local food bank. You may have to be referred by your local Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice Bureau but contact the foodbank directly for more details.
  • Each local council has a Scottish Welfare Fund who can give you grant to buy food and fuel in a crisis. You are normally limited to 3 grants per year but circumstances should be taken into consideration so it’s worth asking.
  • Debt and money advice may not be of use during a crisis but it can help to sort things out and prevent further problems in the future. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or National Debtline
  • The Money Saving Expert website has tips on how to spend less at Christmas as well as offering information on best buy fuel and phone services.
  • If you are waiting for benefits to be paid contact Jobcentre Plus or call the universal credit helpline for an advance payment.
  • If you become homeless over the holiday period contact your local council who will provide emergency accommodation. You will find out of hours emergency contact numbers on the council website.

 

Childcare arrangements

Arrange any extra childcare needed for over the holiday period well in advance. If your childcare cost will rise significantly over this period you may be entitled to extra working tax or universal credit. Contact HMRC report this change for tax credits or, if you get universal credit, report it on your on-line account.

Useful contacts

 

Travel

Public transport is disrupted over the holiday period, and roads may be busier, so check and alter your arrangements if need be.

Useful contacts

  • Travelline Scotland
  • Consult the ‘Ready Scotland’ Twitter list for alerts from key accounts during severe weather in Scotland. Ready Scotland is an official channel from the Scottish Government’s Resilience Division.

 

Health

If you or your children need to see a doctor or re-order prescriptions do so in plenty of time. Casualty and Emergency departments are likely to be busy so be prepared.

Useful contacts

 

Wellbeing

The joy and stress of Christmas can heighten both good and bad emotions. You may find this time difficult if you have recently separated from your partner or you do not have friends or family around you. It is worth remembering that, for many people, the holidays can be difficult.

It can be a good idea to arrange to meet friends or do something you enjoy especially when your children are not with you.

Useful contacts

  • If you are, or have been, affected by domestic abuse you may find it useful to talk to someone from Scottish Women’s Aid. If you are in immediate danger call the police.
  • The Samaritans Scotland are not just for people considering suicide they also provide a listening ear if you’re feeling down and need to talk to someone and Breathing Space offer a telephone counselling service throughout the night
  • If you’d like to contact other parents you could join in the online conversations on Netmums or Mumsnet.

 

Arrangements for children

Finding time to visit friends and family is hard enough but it can require more planning when parents live apart. Talk to your ex well before the holidays so you both have time to consider where the kids will be spending the holidays. If you can arrange a time when you can all be together that’s even better (and cheaper).

Useful contacts

Relationships Scotland offer a mediation service to help you and your ex arrange the time you each spend with your children. There is a charge for this service but it is much less than going to court and less intimidating.

If you are concerned that your child may not be returned to you after a visit inform the police and contact a service like Reunite International for advice on what to do.

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