Written by: Cally Worden
Single parents are consummate jugglers. They have to be. Adding work into the mix brings another dimension to the delicate balancing act, that is single parent life. A whole new set of challenges. Whatever your motivations for returning to work, it’s important to take things one step at a time, give you, and your children time to adjust to this new reality. Here are some things to consider when you are making the transition into working life.
Will I Have More Money?
At a simplistic level you would imagine that working would boost your income, but we all know it’s never quite that simple. With benefits, tax credits and childcare vouchers thrown into the mix it’s vital you do your sums when stepping into work, ensuring your new lifestyle is financially sustainable. Don’t forget to consider travel costs to and from your new job, or any childcare facility you may be using.
In many cases you will end up with more money than before you worked, but you can also end up worse off. In this situation, you need to add your motivation to work into the mix to be sure it is the right decision for you. Entering or returning to the workplace now may work for you on different levels, despite taking a hit on the finances. The internet, your job centre, benefits office, and the tax credits helpline can all provide you with valuable information to help you make the relevant calculations.
This is perhaps the biggest challenge for single parents returning to work. Not everyone has family nearby who are willing or able to help. Many single parents find themselves forced to seek out formal childcare. Quite aside from the costs, simply finding your child a place in a setting you feel comfortable with can be difficult. You also need to ensure that your chosen childcare provider can accommodate the hours and shifts you work.
On the plus side, there may be childcare vouchers and benefits available to you. You may also qualify for one of the government’s free childcare schemes – under these many 2, 3, and 4 year olds can enjoy up to 15 hours of free childcare each week, for 38 weeks each year.
Starting Work – Gulp!
If you’ve never had a formal job, or it has been some time since you were in the workplace then you need to think about what to expect. From a practical point of view, you may need to provide details such as your proof of identity, national insurance number, and proof of address. If you have a P45 from a former job you should take that with you to work – if not you may need to complete a checklist of simple questions, these are designed to ensure you are paid under the right tax code. Those who have been in receipt of Jobseekers or Employment Support Allowances should be issued with a P45 from their benefits office.
Moving into work can be a daunting experience for anyone, let alone a single parent who may have limited adult support at home. If you are feeling isolated it can help to reach out to groups of people in similar situations. Gingerbread is one such free community of single parents that operates in the UK, and provides advice, information and support in spades to its members.