Written by: Toni Foot
Gingerbread: Helping single parents get back into work
Have you heard of or wondered what is the ‘make it work campaign? Bringing up a family involves a careful balancing act where parents have to manage childcare, finances and the physical and emotional needs of their children. This delicate balance becomes even more elusive when a parent strives to achieve it alone. Single parents find themselves stretched to their limits as they do not have the opportunity to share the responsibilities of childcare and earning an income with a partner. As a result, single parents too often find themselves having to decide whether earning an income is actually beneficial to their family, with many unable or unwilling to work because of the impact this has on their children.
Surviving on benefits may sound like an ‘easy option’ to some, yet for most single parents this way of life is not only financially very difficult but also reduces their confidence, self-esteem and future employability. In an ideal world, everyone would work, earn enough to support their family and contribute to the country rather than claim benefits. The government strives to achieve this ideal, as do the majority of single parents, yet we are a long way away from that goal.
Gingerbread (an organization dedicated to supporting single parent families) has launched a campaign to help single parents back into work by improving the opportunities and support available to them: the ‘Make it work’ campaign.
What is the ‘Make it work’ campaign?
Gingerbread is asking the government to reconsider its approach to helping single parent families back to work and out of poverty. They are doing this by setting out some key ways that the government can make work more accessible to single parents.
What is Gingerbread asking the government to do?
1. Make work a guaranteed route out of poverty for single parents.
Many single parents find that having a low-paid job can leave them financially worse off than claiming benefits, particularly considering the high cost of childcare that is necessary to enable them to work. When faced with the prospect of working for next-to nothing, many single parents choose to spend their time caring for their children rather than working for no tangible benefit to their family. Gingerbread wants the government to address this issue by reconsidering their plans for Universal Credit, increasing the support available for meeting childcare costs, increasing the basic element and allowing a higher disregard. This way single parents may find that earning an income actually makes them better off (financially) than staying at home.
2. Get 250,000 more single parents into work by 2020
Gingerbread wants to see the government making a real effort to help single parents back to work by improving the support on offer through the Job Seekers’ Agency. They want to see single parents having access to a JSA advisor who has an understanding of the challenges faced by single parents and can support them appropriately, along with more flexibility to ensure single parents can find work appropriate to the needs of their families. Training is paramount in helping parents to access better paid and more stable employment so supporting single parents to achieve new skills should also be a priority.
3. Employ a different attitude to work and school hours.
Single parents often find working standard hours (9-5) difficult because this means they are unable to drop off and collect their children from school. Couples can often share the responsibilities of school runs, but single parents are solely responsible for both ends of the school day. Despite the improvement in flexible working on offer to parents there are still far too few opportunities to work within school hours. Gingerbread also wants schools to do more to offer extended school hours to ensure parents can access employment.
4. Unlock single parents’ skills and potential.
Too many single parents do not have access to sustainable, adequately paid work because they do not have the qualifications required. Lack of qualifications not only leads to less quality employment but also a lack of confidence and self-esteem in parents who find their only options are benefits or jobs which do not allow them to reach their potential. Gingerbread wants to see single parents having better access to training by offering fee remission for courses. They also want the priority to shift from quick employment to quality employment – a situation exascerbated by requiring single parents of school aged children to be available to work at any time, regardless of any training already underway.
What can I do to support this campaign?
Gingerbread is working to voice the concerns of single parents to motivate the government to make real changes to improve the situation. In order to make that voice heard they need your support. You can help them reach their goals by:
- Joining the ‘make it workforce’ through Gingerbread’s website: http://gingerbread.org.uk/content/898/Engagement-Tool adding your thoughts and comments to bring to the attention of the government.
- Joining Gingerbread – not only can you help support their campaign, but you can also gain access to support, advice and opportunities to socialize through their organization.
- Write to your MP or the Chancellor, outlining your views on this issue.
For more information on this campaign and the work of Gingerbread, see their website: http://gingerbread.org.uk/content/894/Make-it-work