Single Parent’s Experience of the Work Programme – how does it affect you?

Mum goes to work

It started back in May last year with a desperate post on our discussion forum. It was from a single mother with a young daughter who was moving over to the Work Programme. She was anxious about what the Work Programme would involve and what account would be taken of her child’s needs. She was really worried about childcare and what would happen to her daughter over the long school holiday. JobCentre Plus could offer her little reassurance. What followed on One Space was an avalanche of posts from single parents across the country worried about their transfer over to the Work Programme.

Following a detailed analysis of single parent’s experiences, Single Parent Action Network (SPAN), the organisation that brings you One Space, has just published a report with a view to influencing policy makers to improve the services that they provide to single parents and take better account of your needs. See our findings below.
Single parent’s experience of the Work Programme continues to be an active discussion on One Space, and it is fantastic the support that you continue to give each other as you move onto the Work Programme. SPAN is also continuing to gather evidence about single parent’s experiences so we really like to hear more of your views.
Join our discussions below to tell us your experience and your views on the SPAN support:
Last summer the Government introduced a new ‘back to work’ initiative to help the longer term unemployed.  Job seekers aged 18-24 who have been on Jobseekers Allowance for over 9 months or aged over 25 after 12 months are now transferred onto the Work Programme.
We wanted to see whether the needs of single parents and their children were taken into account as they moved onto the Work Programme.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and those that provide services on their behalf have something called a public sector equality duty.  Basically this means that they should design services to take account of the needs of different groups. For example, it would be reasonable for a single parent on the Work Programme to be offered an appointment at a time that does not conflict with looking after their child, such as when they are taking them to school.
SPAN's report looks at the experience of single parents transferring onto the Work Programme both in Bristol and nationally. To gather evidence we interviewed single parents in Bristol and looked at discussions about the Work Programme from single parents on One Space's forums. 
Our findings
Our analysis suggests that job-seeking services are not routinely designed with the needs of single parents in mind and that they are overall failing in their delivery.
Key Findings:
  • Single Parents found the transfer to the Work Programme stressful due to the uncertainty and lack of information, such as what the Programme would involve and how often they would need to attend
  • There was real confusion about what childcare would be provided and whether this would be paid for, some parents were asked to bring children to induction meetings and then turned away when they arrived with them
  • There was poor organisation of appointments which could take place during inconvenient times for the parents such as at a time when they would normally drop their child at school and some were threatened with a sanction if they said they could not attend (Read 'A straightforward guide to sanctions' produced by the DWP and tell us what you think)
  • There was a concern about the lack of training opportunities on the Work
  • Programme, a particular concern for the single parents who had been out of the job market for many years
  • A lack of suitable part-time jobs but an expectation that single parents should apply for a high volume of often unsuitable jobs
We make positive recommendations for change:
Key Recommendations:
  • Single parents are identified by the DWP as a group suffering substantial
  • employment inequalities
  • The DWP should have effective monitoring in place to ensure the Work Programme is meeting the needs of single parents
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission should make sure the work of the DWP, JobCentre Plus and Work Programme providers' complies with the equality duty as a priority
  • Equality objectives must change practice in JobCentre Plus and Work Programme providers, making sure that appointments and any training for single parents fit around their children's needs such as arranging them during school hours
  • More specialist support is needed for single parents both at Jobcentre Plus and on the Work Programme
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on helping employers design jobs with part-time hours and encouraging employers to advertise more jobs with flexible patterns of employment
Let us know your views and experiences on the discussion thread