Nearly two thirds of children in single parent families likely to be in poverty by 2021, with single parents being more likely than the average employee to be trapped in low paid, often zero hours work, according to a new report.
The report, One in four: single parent families in the UK, released by charity Gingerbread finds unsustainable work and poverty are the two biggest issues facing the UK’s 1.7m single parent families.
It has been released to mark 100 years of Gingerbread’s work. It says that despite the fact that single parent employment rates are at a record high, a third of children with a working single parent today live in poverty.
It says that over the past 20 years single parents and their children have faced around twice the risk of poverty compared to couple parents. Benefits changes mean the situation is set to worsen with 63% of children in single parent families likely to be in poverty by 2021, says the report. The pressure to take any job available can mean more insecure, rather than sustainable, work, it adds.
The research found that the number of single parents on zero-hours contracts has increased tenfold over the past 10 years, with over 40,000 single parents employed this way. There has also been a 58% rise in the number of self-employed single parents in the past decade – with nearly 60,000 more single parents now self-employed compared to 2007. The research also says that some single parents have been encouraged into unsustainable self-employment by jobcentre advisers in a bid to get them into work.
Rosie Ferguson, Gingerbread’s Chief Executive, said: “The findings of this report illustrate how single parents’ aspirations can be thwarted by circumstances outside their control. The majority of single parents work but many are still locked out of the secure, flexible employment opportunities they need in order to provide for their children. Low-paid and insecure jobs, as well as the lack of affordable childcare, mean that some single parents struggle to put food on the table for their children.
“The government must work with jobcentres, employers and childcare providers to ensure that work genuinely provides a route out of poverty. We need to strengthen the system of support for single parents to provide a decent standard of living for them and their children.”
Gingerbread is calling on the government to suspend job-seeking conditions for single parents with pre-school aged children and single parents in training, to avoid pushing single parents into unsustainable work, to tailor jobcentre support for single parents and invest in higher levels of training and education and to work with employers to embed a genuinely family-friendly labour market, including improving the availability of good quality part-time and flexible jobs.
It also calls for the expansion of childcare support to target assistance at low income families effectively, including widening access to the 30 hours’ free childcare to single parents in education/training and in variable-hours work, and supporting parents with the upfront cost of childcare.