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BP 46: Barriers and opportunities facing lone parents moving into paid work

Date: November 2014
Category: Briefing Paper
Work programme: Work and poverty
Author: GCPH

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Lone parent 40 percent statWelfare policy changes to Income Support (IS) eligibility in October 2012 have resulted in lone parents on IS moving to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) when their youngest child is five years old. Once on JSA, they must seek work, or face tougher penalties under a new sanctions regime.

Within this context, the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) commissioned a literature review and research study on the wider impacts of the welfare changes on lone parents with young children moving into work, with a focus on three areas:

  • Lone parents’ lived experiences
  • Lone parents looking for and being in work
  • The current welfare regime and reforms.

A number of important challenges for lone parents were identified:

  1. Most lone parents are looking for a job, but need to balance employment with looking after their children.
  2. The current benefits system ‘pushes’ people into work, without recognition of the implications for children’s wellbeing, and the ability of the job to be sustained in light of childcare responsibilities.
  3. Adults are required to search for, and take on, work as soon as the youngest child reaches the age of five. Where the child turns five in the months before starting school, availability of sufficient hours of childcare is a challenge, particularly during the summer holidays when free nursery provision ceases.
  4. Jobcentre staff provided less support and understanding of the situation than the participants felt they needed. Many found ‘signing on’ an unpleasant experience with negative consequences for their wellbeing and involving a range of practical challenges. Consequently, some parents were searching for alternative employment support services.

This Briefing Paper summarises the evidence and findings from this research and concludes that there is a need to develop planning and service delivery responses across a range of areas that include childcare, employment support, in-work poverty, transport, future welfare reform and partnership work to support lone parents. 

A full report and literature review are also available.