BLOGS

“To change the conversation, we have to change who is part of it”

An impossible bind – single parent families and Universal Credit

It is with considerable frustration that I am adding to the mountain of words written to plead with the Department for Work and Pensions for a pause and a rethink about the extent and the impact of Universal Credit on numerous client groups.

I am writing as a Trustee of Gingerbread, a charity dedicated to the support of the two million single parent families in the country.  We provide expert advice, practical support and campaign for single mums and dads.

Universal Credit has hit single parent families hard, and in particular those affected by the new job seeking requirements imposed by Universal Credit on parents of children aged three and four.  This change will affect 220,000 parents of whom 75% are single parents.

Very few of us would argue that the original policy intent of Universal Credit, Making Work Pay, was a bad one.  Put very basically it was intended that everyone in work would be better off than if they were out of work.  So far, so sensible. Where things have got messy is in the implementation which doesn’t acknowledge the current realities of life.  Since Universal Credit was conceived employment levels have continued to rise. This policy, that was meant to support people in to work, is no longer required.  For many pay and progression are more important issues. In the case of single parents with pre-school youngsters there is simply a lack of part time jobs and suitable childcare.

This was policy melt down waiting to happen because it was well known that there is a shortage of flexible jobs in the market place and that childcare is expensive and in inadequate supply. Single parents are now being needlessly exposed to financial sanctions and further poverty.  This at a crucial time in their child’s development. It’s Kafkaesque.

Parents are being asked to achieve the impossible – find suitably flexible employment that allows them to meet their parental caring responsibilities or risk financial sanctions.

Gingerbread has made recommendations that require urgent implementation if families are not to suffer needless distress. We are calling on Jobcentres to suspend the job-seeking requirements on parents of pre-school children until enough flexible jobs have been created and sufficient childcare is in place. Further we have requested that genuine flexible work opportunities are designed and promoted. This would include an overhaul of the DWP’s Universal Jobmatch job site.  

In addition, parents of pre-school children should be encouraged by the Government to take up education and training opportunities through the extension of eligibility to 30 hours free childcare to these learners.   

Finally, the Government must publicise the financial help that will be available under the childcare element of Universal credit and help develop the Family Information Service so that parents can locate combinations of support (such as a nursery and childcare) which will help them move more easily in to work.

My own experience when meeting single parents is that they are keen to work and to do the best by their children.  They are undertaking a tricky job in difficult circumstances already. What they don’t need are unnecessary “trip hazards” that with adequate preparation could have been foreseen by DWP. It’s not too late for the Government to do the right thing by parents of young families. It’s a question of whether there’s an appetite to do so.  We hope that good sense will prevail and that our recommendations are implemented.

You will find the Gingerbread report “An impossible bind: requirements to work under Universal Credit” here:   www.gingerbread.org.uk/policy-campaigns/publications-index/universal-credit-conditionality/

Fran Parry is MD of Bright Sparks Consultancy Ltd and a trustee of Gingerbread.  She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We provide the platform - you provide the content

Read our latest guest blogs here or search for them by subject on the menu below. We are always looking for guest contributors for our blogs so if you’ve got something to say please email blogs@peoplespowerhouse.org.uk with a brief synopsis of what you’d like to write about and how it relates to our our five pillars of change.

* These blogs are a collection of thoughts and opinions from people living or working in the North. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the People's Powerhouse.

search

pillars

tags

Our address

The People's Powerhouse
Jenny Sanderson Suite,
Blackburne House, Hope Street,
Liverpool L8 7PE 

07769 670 753 / 07590 112 912
people@peoplespowerhouse.org.uk

Social Media

Join our active discussions on Social Media.  If you agree with our objectives add YOUR voice!

Facebook    linkedinYouTube alt 1Twitter

Make a donation

This feature will be available soon.

Keep in touch

Join our mailing list to keep up to date with events and news and find out how we'll shape the future.

Search

Cookies make it easier for us to provide you with the right information. Please click OK to allow us to use them.
Ok Decline