Unhelpful and unfair? The impact of single parent sanctions

Published on 17 April 2018


Single parents want to work yet Gingerbread’s research shows that sanctions can make it less likely for parents to achieve that goal. This report also shows the first signs that Universal Credit risks making this situation worse, as more single parents – including those with very young children and those who are in work – are subject to conditions that place them at risk of sanctions under the new benefit system.

While a full rethink of the current sanctions system is necessary, Gingerbread calls on urgent action from the government to:

  • Reduce financial penalties and introduce a ‘yellow card’ warning system
  • Suspend unrealistic job-seeking requirements, including for parents of three and four year olds until affordable and good quality childcare and flexible work is available locally
  • Overhaul claimant commitments so that they are transparent, flexible and appropriate to single parents’ needs
  • Focus on providing support rather than inflicting sanctions to better enable single parents to enter work such as assisting with upfront childcare costs.

Key findings

  • Warnings and sanctions for single parents arise as a result of unrealistic and rigid job-seeking requirements under benefit rules, which fail to recognise single parents’ barriers to work (eg a lack of childcare or flexible work)
  • The promise of personalised support with new claimant commitments and Universal Credit has failed to materialise
  • Single parents end up with debts and have to rely on foodbanks and other emergency support when sanctioned – even if these are later overturned
  • Single parents are left unable to afford to travel to the jobcentre or interviews after a sanction – leaving them further from work
  • Sanctions (and warnings) cause considerable distress for parents worried about having the means to look after and care for their children while sanctioned.
Find out more about sanctions