In work, better off: next steps to
YWCA is the leading charity working with the most disadvantaged young women
in England and Wales. Young women face unique problems in today’s society.
They are largely unheard and lack influence. We want a future where they can
overcome prejudice and take charge of their own lives. We run services to
support them and campaign with them to combat the discrimination they face.
YWCA welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation. We work with
many young lone mothers. Young mothers aged 16-24 account for 7% of all lone 1parent families. We have been campaigning for better skills and work
opportunities for disadvantaged young women as part of our campaign, ‘More
than one rung’ http://www.ywca.org.uk/morethanonerung/. This draws
attention to the fact that, despite their potential, thousands of disadvantaged
young women are trapped on the bottom rung of the career ladder.
? YWCA favours the use of carrots over sticks to increase lone parent
employment. We congratulate the Government on their success to date,
which has largely been a result of financial incentives, childcare and
flexible working policies.
? We are very concerned about proposals to reduce lone parents entitlement
to Income Support from when their youngest child is aged 12 and
eventually 7. We feel this is inappropriate and will be ineffective.
? As the majority of lone parents are women, 90%, they will overwhelmingly
be affected. This is not recognised in the document.
? We are against any proposals to sanction lone mothers, whose children
face a 50% risk of being in poverty, compared to a 23% risk for children in
two parent families. We are especially concerned about the sanctioning of
younger lone mothers who receive lower benefit rates than those over 25.
? We feel that the existing proposals are rigid and punitive. We feel that a
much better system of support lies in that available for those with a
sickness or disability.
? It is vital that lone mothers are able to enter well-paid employment.
Tackling stereotypes and making lone mothers aware of pay differentials
in different sectors should be a central commitment of the adult careers
service. Quality training, including apprenticeships, will also be essential.
? The government should make the right to request flexible working
available to parents of children of all ages.
1 Escott, K. and Buckner, L. (2006) ‘Young women’s employment: growing up poor in England and Wales’, Oxford, YWCA England & Wales
Question 1: At the moment, lone parents are entitled to Income Support until their youngest child is 16. Is it right that this age should be reduced?
YWCA congratulates the government on their success to date in supporting lone
parents into work. We feel that support through financial incentives, flexible
working policies and increased availability and affordability of childcare is the
most effective way to increase lone parent employment rates.
We are very concerned that lone parents may be forced into work through a
removal of entitlement to Income Support when their youngest child is 12 and
eventually 7. We feel that this would be both inappropriate and ineffective.
Firstly, the value of lone parent’s caring responsibilities has to be recognized. In
some cases caring responsibilities can increase as children get older and enter
youth. We are also concerned that childcare services for older children are 2 sparse.
Secondly, increasing the caseload of advisors could result in decreasing the
overall effectiveness of the programme by increasing time pressures on them. It
could also hamper the personal advisor-client relationship, which is often
positively referred to by lone mothers. Trials of a Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
type regime for lone parents, whereby attendance at the Jobcentre every two
weeks and engagement in work search was rewarded by a ?20 ‘work search
premium’ resulted in scepticism: “The conditionality associated with WSP [Work
Search Premium] is viewed as a deterrent for many lone parents and an 3administrative burden by advisers.”
Thirdly, we feel that the differing approach to lone mothers, partners of the
unemployed and second earners serves to stigmatise lone mothers. Second
earners and partners of the unemployed do not face the same pressures to enter
work. This disparity is unfair and labelling.
It is also unfair to expect lone mothers to enter work when childcare is lacking,
when they are not better off in work and when jobs with flexible working
arrangements are not available. We appreciate that the Government has done a
lot to make progress in these areas but we are still aware of problems on the
These proposals will overwhelmingly affect women as over 90% of lone parents
are mothers. This is not recognised in the report, which is very gender neutral.
The only reference to women is in reference to increasing the employment rates
of Bangladeshi and Pakistani women.
Question 2: What would the minimum age be?
We feel that a lone parent should not be expected to enter work until they are in
a position to do so. This means ensuring that their needs are met. Despite the
government’s recent efforts, a lack of flexible working opportunities, low pay and
a lack of quality, affordable childcare, especially for older children, remain
barriers to lone mothers employment. In light of this we believe it is right to
stick to the existing arrangement whereby lone mothers can remain on income
support until their youngest is aged 16.
2 Haux T (2007) Lone parents with older children and welfare reform – CASP Working Paper CASP, University of Bath, available at: http://www.bath.ac.uk/casp/assets/LoneParentst.pdf 3 Hosain M and Breen E (2007) New Deal Plus for Lone Parents Qualitative Evaluation Department for Work and Pensions research report no. 426 CDS.
Question 3: Should we do more to ensure that our support for lone parents is
accessible and useful for all groups, in particular those with disabled children and
those from certain disadvantaged groups and areas?
Particular issues around accessibility may include language difficulties, transport
and literacy problems, especially for the most disadvantaged. Evidence suggests
that outreach work, going out to where lone parents are in the community, via
children’s centers, schools and voluntary and community organisations can be
effective in engaging lone parents. It may be helpful to consult lone mothers on
the barriers they face in accessing services and how useful they find information.
Engaging them in this way could also serve to build relationships locally.
Question 4: More frequent Work Focused Interviews are currently offered to
lone parents in the two years before their eligibility to Income Support is lost. As
the age of the youngest child is reduced, should other forms of support be
provided, and over what period prior to loss of eligibility?
YWCA is very concerned about the effect of moving lone mothers onto Jobseekers
Allowance. While lone parents must currently attend the Jobcentre for a Work
Focused Interview twice a year, and quarterly from when their youngest child is
twelve, JSA claimants must attend interviews fortnightly. While lone parents can
be sanctioned for failure to attend, losing twenty per cent of their benefit, JSA
claimants can lose their entire benefit for failure to attend, failure to carry out a
Jobseeker’s Direction, for failing to avail themselves of employment, and for
voluntarily leaving employment in the first place. This could put lone mothers and
their children at an even greater risk of poverty and would fail DWP’s child
poverty proof test. We are particularly concerned about the effect this could have
on younger lone mothers who receive lower benefit rates than older mothers and 4 who are 3 times more likely to be poor than mothers in their 30’s.
We feel that the suggested arrangements are too rigid, with support only being
available after a set time period. For example, it seems that the skills check and
access to the adult careers service and training are only available from the
Gateway stage i.e. once a lone mother has been on Jobseekers Allowance for 6
months. We feel greater flexibility is needed to enable lone mothers to access this
support when they are ready to, without placing other work-related requirements
on them that form part of the Gateway stage. In particular, access to the careers
service may help a lone mother to explore the options open to her under less
time pressure, and thereby help her find a job she is more likely to stick with. We
are concerned that existing proposals suggest that lone mothers will have to limit
their job search to focus on wage, travel to work and hours rather than
employment preference, after just 3 months of being on JSA.
Question 5: For lone parents who move onto Jobseeker’s Allowance when they
lose Income Support eligibility, what forms of support (in addition to those
provided to Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants who are not lone parents) should be
available, and over what timescale?
We feel that a much better system of support into employment lies in that
available for those with a sickness or disability. This would mean that:
? Rather than being asked to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, new lone parent
benefit claimants would claim Income Support but be asked to complete a
work focused interview at 8 weeks whereby any conditions making it
difficult to engage in employment (bereavement, disability issues,
domestic violence) would be assessed. These parents would be asked to
4 Mayhew, E. and Bradshaw, J. (2005) Mothers, babies and the risks of poverty. Poverty, 121, 13-16
return for a further interview after six months to assess whether these
constraints still exist.
? After three months lone parents would be automatically caseloaded onto
the New Deal for Lone Parents, and, asked to attend monthly Work
Focused Interviews and undertake work related activity.
? After six months of NDLP participation (nine months of claim), parents
would be referred to a specialist provider who would have greater flexibility
around work related activity.