Government’s plan to push lone parents into work could backfire

Thousands of ill-prepared single parents could be persuaded to start employment by the government’s plans for welfare reform, according to research.

A report by recruitment firm Adecco found that the hard-line stance on lone parents could backfire.

Work and pensions secretary Peter Hain outlined plans at the end of last year that would see single parents forced to seek work as soon as their children turned seven.

However, the Adecco report said: “[These] measures are likely to bring many lone parents to the labour market who are less work-ready and have greater employment barriers than lone parents who currently use public employment services voluntarily.”

Kate Bell, head of policy at charity One Parent Families, added that it was better for everyone if single parents returned to the labour market when they were ready.

She said: “Forcing work requirements on lone parents would be counter-productive since it would discourage those who are work-ready from coming forward for the voluntary help on offer.

“Lone parents face a series of work barriers and need tailored employment support – including training and extra childcare – not ‘quick-fix’ initiatives.”

There are 1.9 million lone parents in the UK, according to the report, 90% of them women. Barriers to employment for lone parents include lack of qualifications, time out of work, childcare expenses and ill health.

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