Pandemic impact on single parents’ job prospects ‘a bleak picture’

Single parents have struggled with work and childcare during the coronavirus crisis and the full impact of the pandemic on their jobs has yet to be seen, according to a new report.

Charity Gingerbread and the Institute for Employment Studies said their research painted a “bleak picture” for the UK’s two million single parents.

Their study suggested that single parents are more likely to have been furloughed and a far greater proportion worked in hard-hit sectors like hospitality and retail.

When furlough ends in the autumn even more single parents may face unemployment, the report warned.

The research highlighted that before the pandemic, single mothers earned half of the salary of couple mothers and it is unlikely this salary gap will have closed during the pandemic.

A children's playground (Yui Mok/PA)
A children’s playground (Yui Mok/PA)

Victoria Benson, chief executive of Gingerbread said: “When it comes to work, single parents are already in a precarious position and it’s clear that without concerted effort things are set to get worse.

“Single parents have much less flexibility than couple parents, limited access to quality jobs and significantly lower household incomes.

“Before the pandemic nearly 70% of single parents were in work and yet many were still living in poverty.

“The pandemic is widening the gulf and alarm bells are ringing loud and clear – the Government must do more to support single parents to access work and to ensure work pays.

“If it doesn’t then we will see more children living in poverty and more single parent families suffering the disadvantage this brings.”

Single parents been unable to find childcare places for their children during the crisis, while the cost of these places has increased, said the report.

Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies said: “This research shows clearly that single parents have been among those hardest hit by the pandemic over the last year.

“But as we look to the future, we need to ensure that they don’t also miss out on the recovery that we’re now expecting.

“We need to see a far greater focus on specialist employment support for those single parents who are out of work, alongside new investment in childcare and skills support.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting those most in need, spending billions more on welfare and planning a long-term route out of poverty by protecting jobs through furlough and helping people find new, quality work.

“Through our Plan for Jobs, everyone who needs it, including single parents, has access to one-on-one tailored support and we have spent billions supporting parents to access free child care.”