The Lone Parent Trap

Lone parent families are twice as likely as coupled families to live in poverty, and according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the British government’s tax and benefit changes could push a further 400,000 children into poverty by 2020. The government insists that finding work is the best route out of poverty.

But when single parents do find work that they can fit around their children, it is likely to be precarious and low-paid.

There are two million single parents in the UK, nine out of ten are women. What most have in common is a lack of part-time jobs paying a living wage, affordable childcare, or support to help them enter work after years spent raising children.

Single parents receive income support (£71.50 a week) in the United Kingdom and are obliged to look for work when their youngest child turns 5. On Income Support parents receive a tailored service, including a lone parent advisor to help prepare them for work, discuss childcare options and ‘better-off in work calculations’. The Jobcentre is not obliged to continue this provision for parents on Jobseeker’s Allowance, though some centres do.

But with the number of total claimants having doubled from over 750,000 in 2008 to nearly 1.5 million in 2012, even if a Jobcentre wishes to provide a tailored service to help lone parents into work it may lack the capacity to do so.

The government says work is the best route out of poverty and most lone parents want to work. Under the current government’s welfare reforms this means they must attend fortnightly jobcentre interviews to prove they are searching for work. What happens when they get there?

My report on the subject was commissioned and edited jointly by OurKingdom and the Friend, the independent Quaker magazine. It was published simultaneously in OurKingdom and, as a Fox Report, in the Friend. The Fox Report is the Friend’s investigative arm, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Read the full report here

The illustrations were provided by Patrick Koduah, a London based illustrator and animator with prizewinning work that includes projects exhibited in the Embassy of Japan, commissioned portraiture of prince Michael of Kent and music video animation for the Rolling Stone Band of the Year 2012.