Back to work after 10 years: ask the expert
Working out how much a job has to pay to be worth doing would be a good start in helping you plan the future. If getting a job will much improve your finances, then restarting your career ASAP will be worth your while. If it won't, then getting back to work may not be so important.
So ... what income you need now (while you're not working) just to pay all the absolutely essential bills?
Does your present income cover these costs? If it doesn't, what's the shortfall and is there anything you can do - apart from getting a job - to add to your income or reduce your costs? I ask because the jobs market is currently so difficult. Talk to your local Citizens Advice Bureau to find out whether you're getting all the benefits to which you're entitled and whether there are any relatively painfree ways of reducing your household costs.
Any future job will have to at least match your current income plus the extra costs involved in working. It should offer a bit more than this (eg 15%) to be worth the extra hassle you'll experience being a working single parent. To do this calculation, you'll need to total up all the job-related extra costs (childcare, travel, business wardrobe, etc) and - possibly - loss of benefits. Remember you'll have to pay most (or all) of the extra costs from taxed income.
Having decided how much you need to earn for a job to be worth applying for, start looking at your local on line newspapersfor jobs within commuting distance. Check whether the jobs you could do now or with training offer salaries that at least match your minimum requirements. With luck, most of them will do.
A "functional" CV would probably suit you best (go online and see what that is!). A "functional" CV allows you to include some of your "old" skills and achievements without highlighting how old they are.
You have at least one up to date skill to crow about (being editor of the NCT magazine) on your CV. There may well be lots more. Invite friends - especially employed friends - in for a coffee and ask them to help you brainstorm what to put on your CV.
I feel you need to make progress with this information-gathering and the work on your self-presentation before you even begin to think about getting some careers guidance and / or going back to college. It's so much easier to tackle any big project - like getting back to work - if you do it in stages. Good luck!
Linda Whittern is Director of Careers Partnership (UK), a careers consultancy for women and men at all stages of their careers.