The Single Parent Employment Challenge – urgent action is needed to prevent single parents being left behind

Posted 10 March 2022

by Laura Dewar Policy and Research Lead

Gingerbread today published the interim findings of The Single Parent Employment Challenge research report, looking at job loss and job seeking for single parents after the pandemic.

The interim report shows that the current system of back to work support, the high cost of childcare and the lack of flexible jobs is preventing far too many single parents from moving into sustainable work after the pandemic. We are very concerned by the evidence that single parents are already experiencing longer term unemployment after the pandemic.

Gingerbread’s interviews with single parents and accompanying data show the current generalist back to work support in job centres is not working.  Single parents are less likely than coupled parents to think that their individual circumstances had been taken into account by the job centre, or to have been encouraged to retrain or move into new sectors.  This is particularly concerning as single parents are more likely to have been furloughed and to have worked in sectors that will not exist in the same way after the pandemic.

Single parents are also struggling with a lack of advertised flexible jobs, particularly part-time roles.  This is pushing skilled and experienced single parents who had previously worked in higher paying managerial roles into low paid and lower skilled roles.

The cost of childcare has risen sharply during the pandemic and single parents talked about no longer being able to rely on older family members for informal care, with ongoing worries about health concerns post-pandemic.

The interim report recommendations are focused on areas where immediate action would help single parents move into work. There needs to be targeted back to work support for single parents, with specialist provision and greater access to training and early careers advice.  Childcare needs to be made more affordable for single parents, including the Government adopting a similar scheme to the Northern Ireland childcare grant to meet upfront childcare costs for those entering work.  Flexible work also needs to be opened up by incentivising job shares and term time working, and by developing the DWP’s own job site to offer more quality part-time vacancies.

As we come out of the pandemic it is is important that single parents are not left behind – the government must act urgently. With record numbers of single parents on Universal Credit and the risk of longer-term unemployment, targeted action is needed to support single parents into sustainable employment.

Gingerbread will publish the final report in September 2022, with longer-term recommendations for government, policy-makers and employers.