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.”