APPG event – Single Parents Employment Challenge Report 

Posted 6 March 2023

Single parents who want to work are facing significant barriers to employment. At Gingerbread, we see first-hand how the lack of affordable childcare and flexible work options, as well as a lack of support from Jobcentre Plus, are holding parents back.

Minister Mims Davies addresses APPG on Single Parent Families

Left to right: Mims Davies MP, Victoria Benson, Gingerbread CEO, Tonia Antoniazzi MP at the APPG on Single Parent Families

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Single Parent Families met on February 23rd, to discuss the Single Parent Employment Challenge report, a new study published recently by Gingerbread and funded by the abrdn Financial Fairness Trust. 

 Speaking at the event were: Social Mobility, Youth and Progression Minister Mims Davies, Victoria Benson, CEO of Gingerbread, Teri, a single parent speaker, and Nicola Smith, CEO of Timewise, a social enterprise working to support the development of more flexible working opportunities. The event was chaired by Tonia Antoniazzi MP. 

In her contribution, the Minister said that as a single parent herself, she was deeply passionate about getting it right for single parents. She noted that while we needed to make sure single parents could be supported into work, it was also important to recognise that sometimes it might be the right thing for a single parent to stay at home to look after their children.  

In Gingerbread’s report, we recommended reform to the way that help with childcare for parents on Universal Credit is delivered. Currently, parents are expected to pay childcare costs to their nursery or childminder in advance and can then reclaim up to 85% of the costs, but this is capped at £646 per month for one child and £1,108 for 2 or more children. Many single parents struggle to find the funds to cover the upfront costs, or to fill the gap between the capped amount and actual costs of childcare.

Responding to Victoria’s speech where she called for funds to be made available upfront and for the cap to be uprated to better reflect current childcare costs, the Minister said we would need to wait for the budget on 15th March for the Government’s approach to this issue.  

Single mum Teri shared her experiences of finding work, noting the challenges of costly childcare, the need for suitable part time roles that would allow her to balance work with her parenting responsibilities and the lack of relevant advice and support from Jobcentre Plus. Explaining her experience of meeting work coaches, she said that while they were nice, they couldn’t advise her on suitable roles that other single parents had taken on, and she felt that she was finding her way alone.  

There was also a lot of discussion at the meeting on job design and making sure that the economy is reshaped so that more suitable flexible and part-time roles are available. Nicola Smith highlighted Timewise’s Flexible Job Index, which sets out that only 30% of job adverts offer flexible working and only 12% offer part-time, despite growing demand. 

So what needs to change?   

Gingerbread are calling on the Government to do more to help single parents fulfil their potential and provide for their families. Specifically, we are recommending: 

  1. Action on childcare: We’re asking the Government to reform the childcare support element of Universal Credit (UC). Payments should be made upfront to parents or the childcare provider, and the cap on the amount provided should be increased in line with the cost of childcare in 2023. More widely, childcare needs to be affordable (and available) for all. 
  2. Action on flexible and part time working: the Government should implement planned legislation to enable all workers to request flexible working from day one. We’re also calling on the Government to require all employers to advertise roles as flexible unless there is a good reason not to, and to work supportively with employers to encourage more creative job design that works for single parents. 
  3. Action to improve support from Jobcentre Plus: Single parents tell us they need work coaches who understand their situation. We would like to see specialist single parent work coaches.  

For further details on our recommendations please see our report, the Single Parent Employment Challenge. 

At a time when employment vacancies across the whole country are still over a quarter of a million higher than pre-pandemic levels, employers are missing out on the skills, experience and enthusiasm of single parents who desperately want to work. As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, Gingerbread are calling on the Government to take action to ensure single parents can support themselves and their families.