Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Full Circle on Lone Parents

If memory serves me correctly, one of the first acts of the New Labour government was to cut lone parent benefit. Well, it's been 10 ten years since the last attack on lone parents, so perhaps they thought it was about time to have another pop.

Now, I'm not arguing that lone parents, or indeed any group in society, shouldn't be supported into work. Work, it is generally accepted, is a good thing. It's good financially, and good for the soul. And when you have kids, you really should do your best to support them. That said...

There are many problems with this latest discussion about lone parents and work.

As a woman of child-bearing age (as I am constantly reminded by my mother!), I am acutely aware of the lack of childcare - particularly that of the affordable variety.

Granted, the UK Government has introduced relatively progressive flexible working rules - but we all still have to deal with individual employers to request flexible working, and well many employers aren't so progressive. The reality is, when a parent requests flexible working to assist them with their caring responsibilities, employers (and often some fellow employees) can make them feel like a burden.

As I've already said, work is generally good for the bank balance - but not always. We all know about the 'benefits trap', where some people can be worse off in work than on benefits. The reality is that part-time work in this country is generally lower status and lower paid. If the state pressurises lone parents into work, then their most likely option is part-time work to ensure they can be at home when their kids get back from school. I fear that these latest proposals endorsed by Gordon Brown could see many lone parents pushed off benefits and into low paid work.

And what are the likely consequences - for the parents and children? Hasn't this government harped on about the rise in anti-social behaviour among young people? Pushing lone parents into work when their child reaches 12 might look good on paper for those obsessed with figures (N.B. the latest report on lone parents was written by a banker) - but what about the impact on these kids, on the brink of those traumatic teenage years? This is an important formative time for young people, and a time when they need a lot of parental support. It would seem that government is sending parents mixed messages on this one.

1 comment:

Mark McDonald said...

coupled with Reid's attacks on illegal immigrants and asylum seekers today, who will they be gunning for next?

Maybe the Daily Mail will hold the answers, it seems to be their reference point of choice...