Rapid increase in Lone Parents on JSA. Can the Work Programme make a difference?

The number of Lone Parents on JSA has risen to over 120,000 from less than 10,000 in  the last four years, and will go up again over the next 12 months. (See previous blog for details.)

The rise comes in the main from the changes to benefits, which have moved lone parents off Income Support and on to JSA as their children were at first 12, then 10, then seven and now five. This means they have to be actively seeking work and move on the the Work Programme after a year.

Because 9 out of 10 lone parents are women this group has added to the total number of unemployed women, which has in turn hit a record in recent months, even as male joblessness had begun to dip.

The Work Programme will therefore be receiving an increasing number of women, as a total, and percentage of the whole. And many of these will be looking for part-time work because they need childcare for increasingly younger children.

Providers will know that lone parents attract the same level of financial support as other candidates on JSA,even though they may have additional needs. This can lead to tensions if lone parents look like difficult candidates to place. But without support there can be devastating long term effects, not just for the parent but for their families too. Children in workless households suffer from more than just lack of money.

What can Work Programme providers do?

1: Source the jobs
Use your sales teams to identify more part-time work.The majority of lone parents with children at primary school will need at least some flexibility, or shorter hours. Even a small increase in the number of suitable-hours part-time jobs sourced will help your adviser teams place more candidates in to sustainable work.

2: Increase employability
A parent who has not worked for years will need some time and extra support to build their new more employable CV. Short courses, opportunities to gain suitable experience, enjoyable voluntary work, confidence building and hand holding all make a difference. This can take time, and so advisers with a high number of lone parent clients may need more time to meet their targets.

3: Train your staff
Lone Parents have a lot of questions that need to be answered before they can feel confident to going back to work. Will I be better off? What childcare is available? How many hours do I need to work to claim Working Tax Credit? Will I get help Paying for childcare. Are there any part time jobs in this area? Can I get a job with out experience or qualifications? Your staff will need to know the answers. Good links with local support organisations can be vital.

4: Build your Organisation’s expertise
Organisations who are prepared for this change will provide a more effective service. Make sure that staff in different departments know that there will be more women attending sessions, and more people with children who need help. Make sure your organisation is providing support where it is needed. For example EOS in Tipton have women only gym sessions in school hours at their Employment Centre.

5: Know your your area.
The numbers are not the same across the country. Urban areas are dealing with bigger increases than rural, with London, the Midlands, the North East and North West showing the highest rates.

6: And finally, think to the Future –
Universal Credit is just round the corner!

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