Stephen Lloyd MP writes… The jobs agenda – a lot done, more still to do for single parents

Budding Artists Create Holiday MasterpiecesIn my constituency of Eastbourne, one in four households with children is headed by a single parent. This mirrors the diversity of modern families across Britain, where families come in all shapes and sizes, and reinforces my commitment to support and promote policies which enable each and every one of these families to balance work with bringing up their kids.

I am proud of the coalition government’s record on job creation and bringing down unemployment – reflected in the latest statistics out last week which showed that unemployment had fallen to its lowest level in nearly six years – but recognise that there is still more for us to do to ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the economic upturn.

This week, single parent charity Gingerbread has published a new report, Paying the Price: The long road to recovery, which highlights single parents’ experiences in work and of finding work. In reading the report, I was struck by how motivated single parents are to work and support their families – indeed 60% of single parents are already in work – a fact which is reinforced by the stories I hear from the single parents I meet at my constituency surgeries.

However, the report also identifies some of the challenges facing single parents, who can often struggle to earn their way out of poverty on only one income. In particular, the report highlights that:

  • 39% of working single parents surveyed are in low-paid jobs, compared with 21% of workers nationally
  • Many single parents can’t find the hours they want to work – the proportion of single parents working part-time but who want full-time work is double what it was five years ago
  • 1 in 4 working single parents surveyed has increased their working hours in order to boost their earnings, and one in six now has more than one job
  • 1 in 4 non-working single parents surveyed left their last paid job due to job insecurity – that is, due to lower wages, fewer hours, redundancy or temporary work ending.

The testimonies in Gingerbread’s report reflect my own experiences working as an MP. In my surgeries I regularly hear about the immense lengths single parents go to in order to pay household bills or kit out their children for school. I am also a long-term supporter of Gingerbread’s “Make it work for single parents” campaign, and this report serves as an important reminder that more needs to be done to ensure the UK labour market works for single parents.

In particular, I support Gingerbread’s calls for:

  • Increased investment in skills training for single parents to help them find jobs that pay a decent wage
  • Further work with employers to develop flexible working opportunities across a greater range and level of jobs, as well as to incentivise job security
  • Making the most of universal credit’s phased implementation to pilot specific actions that maximise work incentives for single parents.

Since I was elected to serve Eastbourne in 2010, I have been passionate about supporting my constituents into employment, and am proud of my record in doing this here in the constituency. Gingerbread’s report provides a useful focus for us nationally on a group – single parents – who may face particular barriers into work. I am pleased to be supporting their Make it work campaign to tackle these barriers and ensure that single parents, wherever they may live in the country, are able to successfully balance work and looking after their children.

Photo by USAG- Humphrey

* Stephen Lloyd was MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon until 2015. He was chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education. In March 2013 the Group published a report called ‘RE: the truth unmasked’ on the supply of and support for RE teachers. In June 2013 Stephen tabled an Early Day Motion on RE’s role in tackling extremism.

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4 Comments

  • David Evershed 21st Jul '14 - 5:22pm

    There is a feeling amongst many of the current generation that the world owes them a living. You have to earn a living.

    Also you can not expect to earn a good wage (as an employee or self employed) if you don’t provide a good service to your customers – and this means having to put yourself out for the customers not vice versa.

    It is common sense to work hard at your education and skills training to become employable before having children. But once skilled, don’t expect to earn a good wage without having to work longer and harder at peak times.

    People with expectations that they can have an easy life, with regular hours and a good wage have not realised that it is a competitive world in industry and commerce and that you can no longer hide in the public sector either.

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jul '14 - 7:02pm

    David Evershed – ‘There is a feeling amongst many of the current generation that the world owes them a living.’

    Would you be so kind as to elaborate on this?

  • The government could do more to provide flexible on campus pre and after school clubs. Often these are extremely inflexible and waiting lists long, challenging if you are trying to be available to work in todays marketplace.

  • Melanie Harvey 21st Jul '14 - 9:27pm

    Many moons ago as single parent, I went through PYBT to work self employed. I had an award by way of set up loan and grant. This enabled me to work around childcare/school and on my terms. With WWW many single parents could do likewise and on their own terms/hours… think about it, a similar scheme through Gingerbead could help much. This can kill two birds one stone in addition, my daughter and son grew up with a strong work/achievement ethic.

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