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.”

15 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.

    1. I have twin daughters aged 2. and they are trying to force me back into work. I mean really??? Theyre not even at nursery yet let alone primary school. They are with me 24/7.

  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!

  4. I am trying to find out which employers offer the childcare vouchers discount scheme and also seeking which employers offer work that is within school times, so that I can directly apply to these companies.

    I have other qualifications however cannot risk applying for jobs where there is a requirement for me to put them in the breakfast and afterschool clubs at full cost as current I can only see. The full cost for me for breakfast and afterschool club fees for my ten and eleven year old comes to £124 per week which out of a low income wage leave absolutely nothing or near nothing left.

    Any advice and info you can help me with would be much appreciated. thank you

    1. Hi Ellen, I’d recommend you take a look at our online information about Childcare. There are a number of schemes that might help you but it all depends on your circumstances and the age of your children: https://www.gingerbread.org.uk/information/childcare/ We don’t hold information on employers that specifically offer the work or benefits you’re looking for – as we’re a national charity unfortunately there are just too many employers out there for us to keep an eye on – but if you find a potential job and want help to calculate if you’ll be better off in work then we have an online calculator available on our website too: https://www.gingerbread.org.uk/information/benefits-tax-credits-and-universal-credit/benefit-calculators/

  5. Why is it that the parent left with the children (most commonly the mother) is so brutally penalised financially for being left alone?
    Most families that break up are usually at an absolute tipping point and separation is out of necessity and safety for all involved. Not only are you left alone trying to care for children, but there is no mention of any emotional support about the relationship breakdown and perhaps what has been endured. Instead you go straight into survival mode, being forced to farm your children out into childcare and find the money to provide for them if the other parent cannot.
    Why are we not talking about the damage all this time away from our children is causing? The breakfast clubs, the after school clubs, the 30 hours a week away from home preschoolers have to do. Pre schoolers who’ve had a mum or dad leave their home and now can’t even be with their remaining parent because the government is crippling them financially. They are going to have experienced some kind of trauma from their change in circumstances, but we penalise the parent left with all the responsibility and wonder why at adolescence these children show signs of mental illness.

  6. I am a single parent of a 10 year old . I work part time 17 hours a week. I have had so many sleepless nights over moving onto universal credit. How does the job centre expect us to achieve the impossible
    I spoke to citizens advise last year regarding my redundancy from my perivous employer and the women from citizens advise told me to leave my then 9 year old daughter at home by herself and get a full time job and not to use my daughter as an excuse not to work!! Has you can imagine I complained.
    My point is tho I think under universal credit parents are going to be pushed to the brink they will think its either leave your child home alone or starve. Its disgusting how the government still treat single parents

  7. I am a single parent to a 13 year old and just been told I HAVE to now get a 35 hour per week job and shove him into childcare or leave him in the house on his own for up to 8 hours a day as it’s not illegal. These people don’t care the emotional worry and my son is disposable to suit them. Unless it term time ONLY I will be fine but other than that I am now being forced by UC to leave my child alone while I work 35 hours AND expected to travel anything up to 90 minutes for a job. So what if something goes wrong? Im certainly not going to be anywhere close to hand with up to a 90 minute journey. I am absolutely stressed out with the hoops they have you jumping though and they actually don’t care about your circumstances. I lost my job through no fault of my own but got another one and it’s STILL not good enough. I’ve had enough and have contemplated putting my son in care so I can get a 35 hours per week job and he can be properly looked after as I don’t feel I can anymore 🙁

  8. So now I’m really worried.Its being rolled out in my borough in October.I have a 22 month old and even though I want to work to give my daughter a better future I don’t see as all said above I can with the childcare costs.My little girl also has serious separation anxiety.I really am at a loss of what to do and am wondering how we will eat while waiting.

  9. I am not a single parent but my partner is self employed and really struggling at the moment, I can’t afford childcare so can’t go back to work. The amount they provide is not enough to Paul the bills and they expect my partner to run around breakin down every single transaction.
    They’ve made it so difficult that since May we’ve only had two payments and have since decided just to drop the whole thing as it’s so stressful.
    I’ve worked my whole life and get nothing back but stress when asking for a bit of help from the government it’s a disgrace.

  10. I am a single parent of 2 children youngest is 3 and eldest is 9 my youngest is not in school until September. My eldest has special needs he is awaiting assessments he has terrible anxiety sensory processing issues and he self harms he can not deal with big changes and his meltdowns can be so server he can hurt himself and others I can not arrange Childminder’s for him as he can not cope with new people I need to be available at the drop of a hat in case he has a episode or meltdown I am currently on universal credit I only split from my parter 2 months ago and I did explain all this to my work coach I also took al his medical paperwork in with me but he would not take copies of it I am getting threatened no because although I have been looking for work I have not applied for anything because there is nothing suitable the children’s dad works nights so is not available to have them in the day as he sleeps and only has them every other weekend on a Saturday afternoon and Sunday for a few hours I am being told by the Jobcentre that I will have my money stopped if I do not apply for jobs I have tried to explain to him that I can’t apply and commit to jobs that are not suitable to me I am so very stressed out having a child with special needs it’s hard enough without a recent separation I also myself have rheumatoid arthritis the specialist I am seeing can not diagnose until my recent steroid treatments end in July so I can not provide sick notes to them until then I really and so stressed don’t no what I can do next if they sanction my income I will not be able to keep a roof over our heads or feed my children is there anyone that I can speak to to help me with this impossible situation

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