Single parents 'need more support' to find jobs

Policymakers need to do more to support young, single parents find work, given that the proportion of lone parent households UK is the fourth highest in the EU, according to a report by the think tank Policy Exchange.

Policymakers need to do more to support young, single parents find work, given that the proportion of lone parent households UK is the fourth highest in the EU, according to a report by the think tank Policy Exchange.

It says that of the 1.8 million single parent households in the UK, 650,000 – almost 1 in 4 – are not in any sort of work, with the average single parent household claiming twice as much in benefit support as the average two parent household. It adds that only Estonia, Latvia and Ireland have a worse record.

The paper says:

– The level of unemployed single parents can partly be attributed to when they had children. Over half (52%) of lone mothers who had their first child as a teenager (16-19) are not in work or looking for work, compared to 40% who had their first child aged 20-23 year olds, 29% of those who had their first child aged 24-29 and 19% who had their first child in their early thirties.

– Skills levels also matter, given the large number of lone parents who had children young and now have low levels of qualifications. Whilst 84% of lone parents who have left education and have degrees are in work, only 54% who left education without any qualifications above GCSE level and 26% who left with no qualifications are in work.

However, the report found that there has been an increase in the number of single parents in work compared to the 1990s, partly due to employment support and stronger job search requirements introduced by the previous government, and the increase in part-time work.

Other findings include:

– Single parents tend to have fewer children than married couples. In 2012, 57% of lone parents only had one child compared to 41% of couples.

– Single parents with children under five who are not in work are twice as likely to have a second child compared to those in work.

– The most common age single parents have their first child is 20 compared to couples who are together who most often have their first child at 30.

– While the number of teenage pregnancies has fallen by a third between 1998 and 2011, the UK still has one of the highest rates in the developed world.

– The number of women aged 20-24 giving birth has fallen by 40% since 1981.

Recently the Coalition government announced that lone parents claiming Income Support would be expected to engage with training in return for the available childcare allowances when their youngest child is aged 3 or 4. The report suggests that more support is needed to help many lone parents with young children into work and reduce the burden that high worklessness has on the state.

Policy Exchange therefore recommends:

– Alongside the necessary conditions that lone parent claimants of Income Support prepare for work before their children start school, the government should pilot offering more intensive training support when their youngest child is three and four years of age. This would offer Jobcentres up to £1,000 per lone parent to provide specialist advice and training, with assessment of any savings this has this has on employment and benefit claims.

– For up to 12 months after they find work or until their child turns five, single parents with a three or four year old who have been out of work since their youngest child was born should be able to retain a portion of the reduction in benefit spending which comes if they find a job with at least 16 hours per week.

– So that progression in work is not penalised, selected employed lone parents claiming in-work benefits who have not seen their income rise in recent years should have the opportunity to receive a bonus taken out of their benefit reduction if they progress onto more well paid work, with this bonus paid in a lump sum after one year.

Matthew Tinsley, author of the report, said: “Raising a child is a huge responsibility regardless of your living arrangements. All parents especially, young single mothers, need support. It is right that the government extended free childcare. However, it is also right to ask more from people to find a job. Simply relying on benefits when you are physically and mentally able to work is not fair. Policymakers must do more to help the two thirds of a million unemployed single parents find a job. Such action would significantly boost the UK economy and help find further savings in the welfare budget.”

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