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Single parents trapped in low paid jobs with little chance of escaping poverty

Nearly half of children growing up in single parent families are living in poverty.

Single parents are being unfairly blocked from progressing in their careers and potentially escaping poverty, according to a new report published today by the Gingerbread charity.

In their latest report, titled ‘Held Back: single parents and in-work progression in London‘, the charity says in-work progression is a key way for single parents to escape a cycle of low pay and financial insecurity.

With nearly half (49%) of children in single parent households living in poverty, Gingerbread says low pay and financial hardship is a critical issue for many single parent families.

However, the report highlights a number of barriers faced by single parent families, including a lack of affordable childcare and a shortage of flexible working opportunities.

Single parents are more likely to be working part-time jobs due to caring responsibilities, but this often means that they are forced to accept jobs that pay below their skill level to achieve the flexibility they need.

And with 41% of single parents struggling to afford childcare, compared to 14% among the general population, many single parents are prevented from seeking better paid jobs and the high cost of childcare blocks in-work progression.

The report also warns that single parents are more likely to have ‘work gaps’ – time out of the labour market – and tend to have fewer qualifications than other working-age adults.

Laura Dewar, Gingerbread Policy Officer said: “Almost all single parents are in work or want to work but our report shows many are being held back in their careers due to structural barriers which trap them in lower paid jobs.

“These blocks mean single parents are missing out on more senior roles and businesses are overlooking an untapped pool of talent.

“With some simple, practical changes, the UK economy could really benefit from valuable skills and the lives of many single parent families could be improved.”

Gingerbread has called on the UK Government to introduce improved rights for all to support flexible working, increase childcare support through Universal Credit, and improve provision of support and advice to help single parents to progress in work.

Gingerbread also says that employers can better support single parents by offering more opportunities for in-work progression, and helping to build the confidence of single working parents through coaching.

Responding to the report, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood MP said: “The Conservatives have shocking disregard for the needs of children and the talents of their parents. They cannot be trusted to tackle poverty and inequality.

“It is wholly unacceptable that half of single parent families live in poverty and it makes no sense to leave single parents trapped on low incomes.

“Labour will bring about real change by giving all workers the right to flexible working from day one, introduce free childcare for all 2 – 4-year-olds, end zero hour contracts and introduce a minimum wage of at least £10 an hour for all workers aged 16 and over.

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