07:10am Friday 20 October 2017

Quality childcare essential to lone parents securing full-time work, researchers find

Liverpool, UK – Researchers at the University of Liverpool have found that the quality, cost and choice of childcare is crucial to getting unemployed lone parents back into full-time work.

As part of the Welfare Reform Act 2009, all lone parents, from October 2010, with children aged seven years or over must make themselves available for work and will receive Job Seekers Allowance until they are employed.  In a study of lone parents in Liverpool, community researchers found that the needs and welfare of children had the most significant impact on whether parents were successful in finding and keeping jobs. 

The study, which will be presented at ‘The ‘Well-being’ of Children, Young People and Families in the UK’ conference at the University this week, revealed that unemployed lone parents were keen to return to work and valued training and further education, but felt they were held back by the lack of quality childcare. 

The Wellbeing of Children conference will also hear from experts on child poverty, children’s rights, and welfare and reform policies.  Dr Stephanie Petrie, from the University’s Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law (CSCFL), will present research funded by the Learning Skills Council (LSC) on the difficulties faced by lone parents in the workplace.

Dr Petrie said: “The report looks at the impacts that welfare reform policies have on lone parents and children in Merseyside.  In order for lone parents to seek and find work, we must first understand their experiences of raising children on their own and the major barriers to them, not only finding work, but remaining in a job.  The happiness of their children was central to their decision making, but childcare was often a cause of emotional distress for both parents and their children. 

“We found that lone parents felt that current programmes of job support did not take into account what they needed to do to make sure their children were happy and healthy.  Lone Parent Advisors, for example often assumed that family and friends could help with childcare, but we found many do not have this option.  Lone parents who took part in the study struggled to find childcare to support them with evening and weekend jobs and many also reported that care for younger teenagers was even more difficult.” 

“We highlight in the report that flexible working hours are a possible solution to the difficulties with childcare.  It allows parents to take their children to school and pick them up, but many of the lone parents that we spoke to were not given this option by their employers.  We have also advised that the quality of childcare needs to be improved to ensure that the child’s happiness comes first.  The expensive cost of childcare for those who are trying to come off benefits also needs to be addressed.”

The report recommends that lone parents should not be subject to income gaps when moving from the benefit system into employment and training and education courses should be flexible around school hours and holidays.

The ‘Well-being’ of Children, Young People and Families in the UK’ conference will take place at the University of Liverpool on Wednesday, 9 June.

Delegates at the conference are available for interview. Please contact Samantha Martin on the number below for further information.

Notes to editors:

Speakers at the conference include:
• Helen Goodman, Former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department of Work and Pensions
• Dr Virginia Morrow, Reader in Childhood Studies, University of London Institute of Education
• Dominic Richardson, Policy Analyst (Child Well-being) Social Policy Division, O.E.C.D.
• Beverley Hughes, Formerly Minister for Children and Families
• Dr Sue Owen, Director of the Well-being Department National Children’s Bureau
• Dr Stephanie Petrie, Senior Lecturer at the School of Law & Social Justice, University of Liverpool
• Mieke Schuurman, Independent Consultant to UNICEF and former Secretary General of the European Children’s Network

2.  The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £98 million annually.

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