A shortage of flexible job opportunities and marginal financial payoffs are holding lone parents in London back from returning to work, say researchers.
Currently, only 45% of lone parents in London are in paid employment, compared with 58% of lone parents outside of London. This figures drops even lower to 39% in inner London.
According to figures from the London Child Poverty Commission, 75% of children of non-working lone parents live below the government’s poverty line. To address this issue, the government aims to encourage 70% of lone parents to return to paid employment by 2010.
But a study by the commission, conducted by the lone parent organisation, One Parent Families /Gingerbread, found there are a number of financial and emotional barriers which hold parents back from returning to work, particularly in London where the cost of living is higher.
Kate Bell, head of policy at the organisation, said: “The hurdles working parents have to jump are higher in London than elsewhere. Lone parents in the capital need extra support to lift themselves and their children out of poverty. Work should be an escape route out of hardship, not a poverty trap itself.”
Amongst a series of recommendations, it urged Jobcentre Plus and other employment agencies to broker more part-time jobs, especially for parents with disabled children who find it difficult to work full-time.
It also noted that lone parents often wanted training or progression routes within employment to fulfil long-term ambitions. But at present, these aspirations are held back as the New Deal for Lone Parents does not provide funding for training above NVQ level 3 and childcare services in further education are limited.
The study also recommended the government promotes its in-work credit programme and the improvements made to the tax credit system, as many lone parents were sceptical over issues such as paying back overpayments.
Improved services for older children and widening access to childcare for non-working parents could also improve employment rates in London, the study noted.
Carey Oppenheim, chair of the London Child Poverty Commission, said: “What this research makes absolutely clear is that we cannot adopt a one-size fits all approach to helping lone parents into work.”
New Deal for Lone Parents