Will lone parents go back to work earlier? The new requirement to actively seek work.

This is the second in our series of blogs on issues that arose out of our Summer Afternoon Seminar.

Lone parents have to actively seek work when their youngest child is five,  and they make up 11% of those on JSA.  The Graph below shows that the majority of parents on JSA have primary school children, and that the younger your child the more likely you are to be on JSA.  Other data shows that once their youngest child is over 12 lone parents are as likely to work as couple parents.

The Government is set to move the age limit down at which parents have to be actively seeking work down to three, bringing in up to 200,000 more parents on to JSA in the 0-4 age range.

Looking at the graph below, that details Lone Parents on JSA by age of youngest child from 2005 to 2015, you can see that whenever the age goes down there is an immediate sharp rise in the number of lone parents on JSA, followed by a steady decrease.  But also that the younger the age of the child the higher the rise and the slower the decrease. (NB the  orange line take in an age range twice as wide as the others so is comparatively higher)

The government has put in place 30 hours of free childcare as a support from 2017 and has added that parents will be able to access extra help from JCP.

What will happen when parents of three and four year olds have to actively seek work?

There are strong positives to parents going back to work earlier: they will be closer to the labour market; their skills will be more relevant; and their incomes should go up, especially after the rise to the living wage and if they can work for longer hours.

Universal credit brings the option of micro jobs, and the right to childcare support from the first hour at 80%. but it also has the added pressure of being under conditionality until your salary is equivalent to  35 hours minimum wage.

Those with one child will find it easiest, but those  with two or more may find juggling nursery and school – especially where the two are not the same, more difficult and there is still no right to holiday care.

Our prediction is that more parents will go back to work, but that there will need to be greater support than is already on offer and that will need to include, more wraparound childcare, better in-work progression and a focus on encouraging employers to make work more flexible.



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