Tailor-made? Single parents’ experiences of employment support from Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme

Published on 17 January 2013


Employment support is failing far too many single parents. Despite years of government initiatives and ‘welfare-to-work’ programmes, the single parent employment rate in the UK is still far short of rates in European countries, and of couple mothers in the UK. As welfare reform hits single parents hard, sustainable employment at a decent wage is urgently needed.

This report looks at the package of government-funded employment support – from Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme – and makes recommendations to improve single parents’ visibility in this system. This includes understanding single parent support needs, ensuring consistent and reliable childcare support and improving the quality of employment support based on single parents’ skills and needs

Key findings

  • In the early stages of the Work Programme, single parents were a third less likely to find work than other participants – just 2.5 per cent achieved job outcomes initially, compared with 3.5 per cent of all claimants
  • Single parents are often invisible within the employment support system – there is a lack of understanding among employment support providers of the specific barriers faced by single parents, or of how to overcome these barriers
  • Despite promises of personalised and tailored support, many single parents only receive a very limited and basic offer of generic support, whether through the jobcentre or the Work Programme
  • Despite some moves to measure performance on ‘sustainable job outcomes’, the system is still more geared towards moving single parents into ‘any job’, rather than one that lasts and provides a decent income.