Flexibility key to help lone parents stay above the relative poverty line

Throughout the school year, media outlets have been filing headlines about the concern over growing costs of childcare which is putting an extra strain on families across the country.

Analysis by the Trade Union Congress illustrates that childcare costs have more than doubled since 2008 for families with a full-time and a part-time working parent. Over the same period their wages rose by just 17%. The situation is thought to be even worse for lone parents - childcare costs for a single mum or dad working full time rising seven times faster than earnings.

“Successive governments have rightfully invested in childcare but, while this investment has been welcomed, many parents remain frozen out of work because of high childcare costs.”
- Ellen Broomé, from the charity Coram Family and Childcare

In the UK there are around two million single parents, as a group they make up nearly a quarter of all families with dependent children. Over 67% of single parents are in work, but the number of children living in single parent families who live in relative poverty, is almost double compared to the risk of relative poverty children in two parent families face. In a report conducted by Barnes and Tomaszweski, 84 per cent of non-working single mothers were clear that they wanted to get a paid job, become self-employed or train.

Key reasons for this difference in relative poverty, which is seen in Cumbria as well as UK wide, is that single parents are more likely to be and get stuck in, low-paid work than other workers; there is a lack of jobs that offer flexible working which can mean single parents often take part-time work which is often low-paid to balance work and family life, and the growing cost of local childcare – which can also be inflexible when juggling the demands of work. Gingerbread, a charity dedicated to giving a voice to single parents, estimates that by 2021, two thirds of children in single parent families will be in poverty.

Barriers and challenges to enter, or re-enter work are generally more difficult for single parents than two parent families, particularly those without extended family support. However, with some thinking outside of the box regarding flexibility from employers, childcare providers and learning and training organisations – these challenges can be eased, and barriers slowly removed.

Flexibility can mean online learning, job share, remote working, flexi hours and onsite childcare facilities. Having access to good quality career guidance and impartial advice is also invaluable for the single parent, organisations like Inspira know the local labour market, understand and can advise on training options to get back into work or progress within a current career, and are aware of live vacancies.

In our modern, digital age, being able to find flexible options to help people succeed in live and work should be a given. Let's see where the next six months take us.

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