Social Security and In-Work Poverty Inquiry Submission
OPFS replied to the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee inquiry into social security and in-work poverty. The Committee’s focus is on the potential impact of Universal Credit on in-work poverty and indications of increasing needs in working households.
Single parents will, on average, be financially worse off when in receipt of Universal Credit – whether working or not. Some single parents already receiving Universal Credit are facing forced evictions and are struggling to afford the essentials needed to bring up children. For example, under Universal Credit:
- Single parents will lose around £1,300 (7.6 per cent) annually by 2020;
- The cut to the Universal Credit work allowance means the average working single parent will lose £800 a year – some will lose over £2,000 compared to current benefits;
- More single parents will be at risk of unfair sanctions – single parents with preschool children will now be expected to seek work regardless of the local availability of childcare or flexible work.
OPFS believes employment should provide a decent standard of living, offer pathways to progress and allow parents to balance work and home life. However, as we know over 68% of single parents enter the three lowest paid occupation groups and are more likely to be in low-paid work.
The predicted increase in child poverty for children in single parent households to over 62% will be exacerbated by the roll out of Universal Credit. We believe parents should be able to make their own decisions about how best to blend work with family life rather than be persuaded into work, under threat of a cut to benefit, that doesn’t meet their family’s needs. Access to training, education and qualifications is crucial for single parents to improve employment and pay prospects.
The Westminster government must live up to its promise to always ‘make work pay’, to protect families from in-work poverty. Work incentives under universal credit should be improved and conditions to look for work eased. Employers and governments should work together to encourage family friendly employment and progression in work across pay grades and sectors. Lastly childcare which is affordable, flexible, high-quality and responsive to parents’ needs is vital to enable single parents to make genuine choices on work and care.