‘81% of single parents cannot meet new UC requirements’

A survey by Single Parent Rights shows the impact on single parents of changes to Universal Credit rules, which have almost doubled the work requirements for parents of 3-12 year olds.

Child hold woman's hand at a table. She has her head in her hands and there is an open purse on the table with just a few pence spilling out of it.


Over 80% of single parents in receipt of Universal Credit are unable to meet the new 30-hour work requirements introduced last October for lead carers of three to 12 year olds, according to new research from campaign group Single Parent Rights, supported by Save the Children.

In the survey of 638 single parents, the increase was “unmanageable” for 81%, while only 32% found their work requirements manageable prior to the increase. Only 6% reported they would be able to meet the new work requirements. Single parents on low incomes, those from racialised minority groups and sole carers were found to face even greater challenges in meeting their work requirements.

The new work requirements, introduced by the Government last October, require lead carers of three to 12 year olds to be available for work for up to 30 hours a week, up from 16 hours a week for parents of three to four year olds and up from 25 hours for parents of five to 12 year olds.

The research identified multiple barriers facing single parents looking for work/increased hours, and one of the biggest was childcare availability (65%) and affordability (60%). There were also concerns regarding the mental health impact on parents (60%) and their children (59%), a lack of flexible work (48%), and the prevalence of single parent discrimination within the workplace (35%). Almost half who are unemployed (45%) said they felt discriminated against for being a single parent when looking for work.

A Freedom of Information request made by Single Parent Rights revealed the DWP deemed “lead carers might be more likely to be married”. Yet Single Parent Rights estimates that 75% of the 525,000 lead carers impacted by this policy change are single parents.

And while work coach meetings are intended to support lead carers looking for work and additional hours, the research revealed that 74% of single parents did not find them useful. This rose to 80% for those who had regular work coach meetings.

One single parent survey respondent said: “The work coach bullies me and makes my anxiety through the roof. I keep getting: ‘You signed up for this’ – I signed up for help, not to be bullied.”

Single Parent Rights and Save the Children say they are gravely concerned that even greater conditionality is coming. They says the Government’s plans to make in-work progression support mandatory “could see an increasingly punitive social security system that increases sanctions on single parents, pushes them further away from employment, and, ultimately, lead to more children being forced into poverty”. The Government argues that working longer hours is way out of poverty.

Meghan Meek O’Connor, senior policy adviser at Save the Children UK, said: “For single parent families on Universal Credit the UK Government’s new work requirements are staggeringly unmanageable. To ask someone raising children alone to work, or seek work, for 30 hours of the week while childcare services remain unaffordable and difficult to access is proving to be impossible according to Single Parent Rights’ survey.

“Single-parent families are already more likely to be in poverty compared to two-parent families, so ministers must reduce the hours requirement so lone parents do not feel they are being set up to fail.”

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