Families can be better off on benefits than in work, says Bristol City Council-run advice line
STAFF at a Bristol City Council-run advice line say it can make more sense for unemployed parents to stay on state benefits rather than get a job – because they would be worse off in work.
The Family Information Service, based in Easton, is designed to provide statutory advice to parents on everything from child minding regulation to finding play groups, but manager Wendy Jackson said that most of the advice given now relates to the affordability of child care provision.
Last year the team gave direct support to families in the city on 23,467 occasions – and Mrs Jackson said the number is rising steadily each year.
The five-strong team of advisors that manage the service's helpline, website and outreach meetings can help members of the public to get to grips with the intricacies of their financial situation.
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These figures can reveal that it makes more sense for parents to stay on benefits.
Last year 672 enquiries were related to support for parents relating to child care costs, including tax credits and returning to/remaining in work, and free early education entitlement. But monitoring of this element was only implemented towards the end of the year and has been growing since – in the last quarter (October to December 2012) the service received 1,210 related enquiries, 100 per cent more than the previous year.
Mrs Jackson said: "Often it is mothers wanting advice about nurseries, day care centres or child minders.
"But we also get a lot of women calling to find out if it is financially worth their while giving up their benefits to go back to work."
Advisor Jessica Kelly, who specialises in giving young mums this sort of sensitive financial advice, said the team never directly encourage parents not return to work.
But she added: "There can be situations where, if a person took a job for just a few hours per week they could end up being financially worse-off than being on benefits.
"But even then, you find a lot of people will take that cut because they want to work."
Alastair Watson, Bristol City Council's cabinet member for children and young people said: "Bristol's Family Information Service's sole aim is to help parents and carers as they tussle with important decisions such as who should look after their child and overcome barriers to starting or staying in work or training by providing advice on affordable childcare."