Parenting alone: work and welfare in single parent households

Document type
Tinsley, Matthew
Policy Exchange
Date of publication
17 January 2014
Employment, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

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Of the one million eight hundred thousand single parent households in the UK, 650,000 – more than 1 in 3 – are not in any sort of work, with the average single parent household claiming twice as much in benefit support as the average two parent household. This report urges policymakers to target support at helping young, single parents find work as part of any plans to find further savings in the welfare budget.

Single parents who had children young often have low levels of education, however, there has been an increase in the number of single parents in work compared to the 1990s, partly due to employment support and stronger job search requirements introduced by the previous government, and the increase in part time work. This report recommends:

  1. Alongside the necessary conditions that lone parent claimants of Income Support prepare for work before their children start school, the government should pilot offering more intensive training support when their youngest child is 3 and 4 years of age. This would offer Jobcentres up to £1,000 per lone parent to provide specialist advice and training, with assessment of any savings this has this has on employment and benefit claims.
  2. For up to 12 months after they find work or until their child turns 5, single parents with a 3 or 4 year old who have been out of work since their youngest child was born should be able to retain a portion of the reduction in benefit spending which comes if they find a job with at least 16 hours per week.
  3. So that progression in work is not penalised, selected employed lone parents claiming in-work benefits who have not seen their income rise in recent years should have the opportunity to receive a bonus taken out of their benefit reduction if they progress onto more well paid work, with this bonus paid in a lump sum after one year.

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