Charity warns new benefit rules will drive families into poverty
SINGLE parents of kids just three and four years old will be forced to look for work in order to receive Universal Credit – or risk sanctions that could drive them into poverty, a charity warned yesterday.
Campaign group and charity Gingerbread says that by the time UC is fully rolled out, 220,000 parents — including 165,000 single parents — face falling into poverty or debt because of the new rules.
The charity points to major flaws in the system, including the government’s new offer of 30 hours’ free childcare per week — which only applies to those who work 16 hours or more and are paid the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage.
There is also a shortage of part-time and flexible jobs, many of which are low-paid, while childcare costs remain high.
The charity’s policy officer Laura Dewar, who co-authored the report, told the Star that when she searched with parents on the government’s own Universal Jobs Match website, there was a “severe shortage” of suitable jobs — many were in the evening, in bars or as cleaners.
The report warns: “Increasing conditions for parents without the necessary infrastructure will do little to support parents. It will further undermine the government’s intention to ‘make work pay’.”
In its own report on UC, published yesterday, The Resolution Foundation found that a typical week of part-time childcare for a two-year-old costs £112.
For a single parent working full-time on the minimum wage, childcare costs would eat away nearly half a month’s income, the think tank said.
Gingerbread’s director of policy Dalia Ben-Galim said single mums were being put in an “impossible bind” by the UC conditions, forcing them to find work when nothing suitable is actually available.
“Single parents and their young children should not be punished for the lack of affordable childcare and flexible work,” she said.
The charity’s latest figures show that nearly half of children in single parent families are now living in poverty, while there has been a surge in the risk of poverty for children even where a single parent works full-time.