Single parents are better off working

Apr 26 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The popular belief that single parents in the UK are little better off if they have a job than they would be living on state benefits is a myth, if new research into 'welfare-to-work' is to be believed.

Research carried out in Doncaster for recruitment firm Reed in Partnership, which manages welfare-to-work projects for the government, found that single parents moving from welfare to work are an average of £100 a week better off thanks to new government tax credits and help with child care

Reed in Partnership has been set a target of helping 30,000 single parents find work in the next five years and provides help with job searches, training and advice on childcare.

Kaye Rideout who manages Reed's Doncaster single parents initiative said: "A few years ago we would sit down with single mums and dads and work out how much better off they would be moving into employment.

"Sometimes the difference would be just an extra £5. They were very difficult days. Now, with all the new government help available, they can get an extra £100 in the family purse each week and it makes all the difference.

"Our survey showed £100 as the average increase- and the single parents we are seeing right now are routinely securing that kind of extra money."

But Gingerbread, the support organisation for lone parent families, said that it was sceptical about the research and pointed out that housing and childcare costs were far higher in many areas of the country.

"If you are on the minimum wage, you live in London, you have to pay for high childcare costs and the housing is the most expensive in the country you may find you're actually £10 worse off a week," said Gingerbread's Debbie Bruce.

"Alternatively you may be £10 better off but there is not much in it.

"I would say it's a small percentage of professional single parents who earn £100 extra a week - or more. You may find most of those are working fulltime. They work a lot or hours and probably do a lot of work at home."

Research carried out earlier this year by the Daycare Trust found that a typical nursery place in the UK for a child under two costs £134 per week. In London, this figure can rise to more than £330 per week.

Working families on lower incomes who get help with their childcare bill through the childcare tax credit still have to find at least 30 per cent of the cost of childcare, and there is no extra help for families with three or more children using childcare. The current average award through the childcare tax credit is only £49.83 a week.

As a result, many single parents are simply unable to work or have to resort to informal childcare by friends, neighbours or family for all or part of their childcare.

Other research has found that more than half of working mothers would rather quit their jobs and stay at home with their children if they could afford it and that six out of ten mothers only went back to work because of financial commitments.