Government reforms fail to boost single parent employment
Children from single parent families are growing up in poverty as successive governments fail to make work pay and tackle single parent unemployment, reports Gingerbread. The charity today launches a three-year campaign calling on the government to take action to help single parents escape unemployment and working poverty.
1.16 million children in the UK are growing up in single parent families where no-one at home works (1) and, of those who do work, a job is still not a guaranteed route out of financial hardship: more than 300,000 children in working single parent families are growing up below the poverty line (2).
Although more than half (59%) of single parents do work (3), their employment rate is still well below that of the
European average (71%) (4). Research published by Gingerbread today reveals that single parents with children aged over 12 face double the rate of long-term unemployment compared with other groups (5) – evidence that the government’s attempts to get more single parents into work are failing.
Gingerbread’s analysis also shows that for those single parents who do manage to find a job, almost a quarter (22%) are out of work again within a year as they struggle to find a job that offers security (6).
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “Successive governments have recognised that getting single parents into work is vital if we’re going to tackle child poverty, reduce the number of children growing up in homes where no one works, and cut the cost of the benefits bill. Yet years of political rhetoric have made very little practical difference to hundreds of thousands of single parents, who are desperate to lift their families out of poverty and be a role model for their children.”
Research from Gingerbread (7) has revealed the biggest barriers to work for single parents as: childcare costs (for 31% of single parents) and a shortage of jobs that were flexible (29%) and that paid enough to make work worthwhile (20%).
A ComRes public poll commissioned by Gingerbread shows broad public understanding of the challenges that single parents face. Asked how effective a number of options would be as a way to get single parents into work, people think the most effective ways are to: ensure people are financially better off when they are in work than when they are on benefits (89% think this is effective) , to ensure that they have access to affordable childcare (88% think this is effective) and for employers to provide flexible working, with jobs fitting around school hours (87% think this is effective) (8).
Jo Kerwin, 40, from Kent now works for herself after struggling to balance her work as a nurse with caring for her sons: “The main thing is finding work that fits around school. And getting childcare if that’s not possible is just not that simple. But not having childcare had an impact on my work, if I wasn’t doing 16 or more hours I wouldn’t be better off at the end of it. It’s all very well the government saying ‘work these hours, get this support’ – but it’s just not that straightforward.”
Fiona Weir added: “Times are tough for lots of families at the moment, and the multiple barriers to work that single parent families face are shared in part by millions of other families too. By getting childcare, flexible working and in-work support right for single parents, government, childcare providers and employers can get it right for all parents.”
ComRes interviewed 2,035 British adults online between 21st and 23rd September 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all British adults aged 18+.