The Work Programme and Jobcentre Plus need to be urgently overhauled if the Government is committed to cutting single parent unemployment, according to a report published by single parent charity Gingerbread.
Research commissioned by Gingerbread shows there is little to differentiate between the support provided by Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme, with advisers in both schemes failing to get to grips with the needs of single parents. It argues that the largely homogeneous support on offer is failing many single parents, who are highly motivated to work but need tailored support to overcome the employment barriers they face, including access to affordable childcare and a shortage of part-time or flexible jobs.
The report ‘Tailor made? Single parents’ experiences of employment support from Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme’ finds that:
– Single parents in the Work Programme are a third less likely to find work than other participants – with just 2.5 per cent achieving job outcomes, compared with 3.5 per cent of all claimants across the Work Programme.
– Single parents are largely invisible within the system. The lack of understanding amongst providers of the specific barriers they face, or of how to overcome these barriers, means they are not getting the support they need.
– Although promised personalised and tailored support, many single parents are only receiving a very limited and basic offer of generic support, whether accessed through Jobcentre Plus or a Work Programme provider.
– Despite some moves to measure performance on ‘sustainable job outcomes’, the system is still more geared towards ‘any job’ than a job that lasts and provides a decent income.
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “Securing a stable job with a decent wage is single parents’ best chance of lifting their families out of poverty. But our research shows that the Government cannot pretend its promise of personalised, flexible employment support is even close to being delivered.
“Tailored support is the most effective way of helping single parents back to work, and yet high targets and low budgets mean that advisers have neither the time nor resources to deliver this. Significant reform is required if single parents are to be supported into sustainable employment.”
According to Gingerbread, 59 per cent of single parents in the UK are in work, compared with 71 per cent of mothers in couples, and 71 per cent of single parents across Europe.
Gingerbread’s recommendations are:
– There must be a renewed focus on single parents from Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers, to include setting a clear and ambitious target for single parent employment and an action plan to achieve it.
– The Government must urgently undertake a rapid review to draw out the key differences between Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme provision, map out a seamless referral process between the two, and remove duplication in the services provided.
– Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme advisers must inform single parents about their rights to balance job seeking with their childcare responsibilities.
– Single parents should receive consistent and reliable support for childcare costs when preparing for work.
– Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers must undertake early assessment of single parents’ need for skills training, and invest in vocational skills – not just basic skills and employability.