BEIS, DfE and DWP could help access 'untapped resource' of single parents

If the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) all made policy changes they could help companies access an “untapped resource”, single parents.

This is according to a report published by Gingerbread, a charity that supports single parents. If the BEIS introduced a duty on employers to publish flexible working options in job adverts and give workers the right to take up the advertised flexibility from day one.

If the DfE reviews the childcare cap which limits the total amount that parents can receive which was set back in April 2003. This level has not kept up with rising childcare costs and prevents the promised 85 per cent support for childcare under Universal Credit.

If the DWP targets career support and advice to single parents at key stages of their children’s lives, in particular when their youngest child begins primary or secondary school.

The charity believes these three things could help open the “untapped resource” of single parents. One crucial barrier to single parents is the lack of flexible working. Flexible working enables single parents to carry out the tasks they need to on a daily basis. It is calling on employers to offer more senior level roles with flexible and part-time working.

Nearly three-quarters (70 per cent) of single parents in the UK are currently working but they are less likely to progress out of low pay compared to couples and parents.

Laura Dewar, policy officer at Gingerbread and author of the report said:

Across the country record numbers of single parents are in work, but too many are still trapped in low paid jobs, unable to progress and struggling with financial hardship. With children in single parent families more than twice as likely to be living in poverty as those in couple-parent families, it is more important than ever to address this imbalance.

Both employers and the government have a valuable role to play in addressing the barriers to decent, flexible work for single parents, ensuring that single parents have equal opportunities to progress.