Universal Credit job seeking requirements risk pushing single parents with young children into poverty

Posted 1 November 2017

165,000 single parents of pre-school aged children are at increased risk of poverty and debt as a result of new work search conditions placed on them under Universal Credit, finds new research published by Gingerbread today.

Marking a significant shift in welfare policy, for the first time under Universal Credit parents with children aged 3 and 4 are required to look for work or risk having their benefits sanctioned. 220,000 parents are due to be affected by this change – with single parents making up 75% of this group.

The research by Gingerbread, based on the experiences of parents of pre-school aged children, highlights that single parents are being asked to achieve the impossible – with the risk of financial sanctions hanging over them if they can’t find work. With limited part-time and flexible work opportunities and a lack of suitable, affordable childcare, single parents will struggle to find work that also allows them to care for their pre-school aged children.

The research recommends that these job-seeking requirements are suspended until sufficient childcare and flexible work opportunities are available; otherwise this policy risks pushing families with very young children into poverty, adding to the significant negative impact of Universal Credit on single parents.

Gingerbread’s Director of Policy, Dalia Ben-Galim comments:

“While discussions of Universal Credit have focused on the important and detrimental delays in payments and waiting times, there are other crucial changes that have slipped under the radar. Our research shows that single parents of three and four year old children are being put in an impossible bind by Universal Credit conditions – forced to seek work when suitable roles aren’t available, and placed at risk of having their benefits sanctioned, which could push them and their children further into poverty and debt.”

Dalia added, “Single parents and their young children should not be punished for the lack of affordable childcare and flexible work. We urge DWP and Jobcentres to recognise the reality faced by 165,000 single parents and suspend the requirements for this group to seek work until affordable, good quality childcare and flexible work are available.”

4 comments on “Universal Credit job seeking requirements risk pushing single parents with young children into poverty

  1. There is no flexible work to meet the requirements. Im on my own, three kids, no help & can work term time only. I work 6.5h a week term time as thats all i can get. Id love more hours but there just isnt any. Its impossible to be alone, have kids and work what they ask for. Im sick of these impossible rules destroying our lives. The stress is getting unbearable.

  2. I’m in agreement with all the views above re single parents with 3-4 yr olds. Childcare is extremely expensive what ever age your school age child (ren) are. The juggling that you have to do as a single parent between looking after your children adequately, looking after yourself and holding down a job.. that’s if you can find a part time or even full time job that pays enough to warrant a basic standard of living is extremely difficult. As an older single mum, my children are now teens, and I work part time, I was definitely better off when I was unemployed, even though it was a few yrs ago now. Wages do not reflect the outgoings of a single parent in running a home, paying the mortgage, and various bills let alone the day to day living costs of living alone with dependent children. In my case, the money I get from child/working tax credits and child benefit just about pay for childcare after school whilst i’m at work, food and occasional clothing needs.. as and when needed. I’m lucky in that I get a small amount of maintenance.. this however just pays for my two girls school dinners which are not free nor subsidised because I need help with childcare whilst I work. Of course, those in childcare need to be paid a living wage for working with our children, however the whole family system in my opinion should be looked at to support families,rather than penalizing them for having children.. who by the way, are our future.

  3. I find it equally worrying that single parents don’t get to benefit from the 30 hours free childcare in the same way as regular income families as UC payments are calculated based on your childcare costs. When the 30 hours free childcare kicks in at age three UC payment decrease proportionately leaving single parents in exactly the same financial situation as before qualifying for the free hours. Whereas regular income families can be approx £40 per working day better off!

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