Abstracts: January 10th, 2011

The rise in child poverty in the decade leading up to 1999 has, in part, been attributed to the increase in workless lone parent households. Research has consistently pointed at parental worklessness as a key factor increasing the risk of poverty, particularly for children of lone parents. This paper presents findings from a study of the issues for all mothers in combining paid work and parenting.

The vast majority of lone parents are lone mothers and this proportion is even higher among lone parents on benefits. For many lone parents transition into employment poses a number of difficulties and presents them with uncertainty about the future. In order to promote successful transition to work it is important to understand the ways in which the decisions about moving into work are made, and how constraints and barriers to employment are perceived.

A number of factors may affect lone mothers’ decisions regarding work, including the availability of childcare, perceived job security and the potential for flexible working arrangements. To make a successful transition into employment, and for the work to be retained, it is important that lone mothers see the transition as an achievable option and one that is beneficial, both for themselves and for their children.

The paper examines the prime issues related to understanding the processes affecting lone mothers’ decisions about employment, as well as their attitudes towards working. The issues are work entry, work retention and changes in attitudes.

The analysis shows that of the employed mothers who reported the belief that pre-school children suffer if their mother works, 46 per cent had changed their attitude within two years while 29 per cent had given up employment.

The paper is available from DWP.