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We provide expert advice, practical support and campaign for single parents

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Giving up work

Father and son using computerIf you make the decision to leave work, whether to care for your family full time or to return to education, you will need to know what kind of support you family is entitled to.

Changes to benefits after leaving work

If you are thinking of giving up work and claiming benefits, make sure you get advice before resigning. You may not be able to claim benefits immediately and you may not be better off.

If you have a child under five, you can give up work and claim income support at any time. There is no penalty for giving up work to claim income support. You can claim income support until your youngest child is five.

If you are unemployed and your youngest child is aged five or over you can claim jobseeker’s allowance if you are fit for work or employment and support allowance if you are ill and not fit for work.

You may not be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance immediately after giving up work. If the Jobcentre does not consider you to have a good reason for giving up a job they may refuse to pay you jobseeker’s allowance for up to 26 weeks. This is called a sanction.

If you claim jobseeker’s allowance you will be expected to be available for and actively seeking work. As a single parent you can limit the hours you are prepared to work to take account of your caring responsibilities.

Click here to find out more about claiming jobseeker’s allowance.

Click here for information on the special rules which apply to single parents claiming jobseeker's allowance.

If you are thinking of giving up work because of ill health or disability see our factsheet for more information.

Leaving work to return to education

If you plan to give up work to study full time or part time, we have information about the financial support available to you.

If you plan to study in further education (A-level, NVQ, BTEC, basic skills or similar courses), click here.

If you plan to study in higher education (Degree-level courses, university courses, teacher training), click here.

For advice on your individual situation call the Single Parent Helpline on 0808 802 0925 to speak to an expert adviser. Calls are free from landlines and most mobiles.