Childcare must become more affordable and reliable before lone parents are forced back into work, campaigners have warned.
The government announced a new strategy to tackle child poverty through the labour markets on 27 March.
It pledged more money for the New Deal for Lone Parents back-to-work scheme, and said single parents will be required to look for work once their youngest child reaches the age of 12 – four years earlier than at present.
But Working Links, which runs a number of New Deal for Lone Parents contracts, warned that many parents could not find childcare to allow them to work.
“Any increased compulsion for lone parents to return to work must be accompanied by the provision of sufficient quality childcare,” said a spokesman.
“We know that many lone parents cite the lack of affordable and reliable childcare as a barrier to them entering the workplace. It is therefore crucial that this is addressed before lone parents are required to return to work at an earlier stage.”
The government aims to have a childcare place available for all children aged between three and 14, from 8am to 6pm each weekday, from 2010.