Welfare changes are crippling us, say Scottish single parents

New report shows lone parents being hit hardest by austerity measures north of the border

 

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) have released a report today looking into the effects of austerity in one area of Scotland, and especially at the impact that changes to welfare reform have had.

The JRF found that for the community in Craigneuk in the North Lanarkshire authority, welfare changes were more of a concern than cuts to public services, which many respondents were not aware of.

Based on the 2012 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, 36 per cent of people in the case study area of Craigneuk are income deprived, and 34 per cent are employment deprived. Craigneuk also has a relatively high number of council-owned properties and relatively high benefits take-up. After speaking to some of the people who live there, JRF concluded that :

“Recent and forthcoming austerity measures compound existing vulnerabilities that, in turn, may result in longer-term societal ‘risk shift’.”

Single parents are particularly concerned. As JRF point out, areas with a higher concentration of lone parents are also comparatively more deprived, with 29.4 per cent of lone parent families in Scotland living in the 15 per cent most deprived areas.

A relative lack of qualifications can put single parents at risk of unemployment, a situation the JRF find is compounded ‘as specialist Redistribution of social support and training services for lone parents are reduced or withdrawn’. On the whole, the financial situation of single mothers was worse than that of single fathers.

Changes to the welfare system have meant that single parents whose youngest child is over five must now claim Jobseeker’s Allowance instead of income support. This means they are expected to be actively seeking work, without coordinated support for childcare, putting them at increased risk of sanctions.

All respondents agreed that the only way to get back into work with this new system in place was to be given flexible, affordable childcare, which many felt did not exist.

The report also found that other welfare changes, although not especially targeted at single parents, may hit this group the hardest; for example the switch to monthly benefit payments, the 2011 freezing of child Benefit levels and the cuts to childcare provision.

One respondent said:

“… I’ve never been so much a financial cripple my whole entire life. If you are going to get people

to go back to work, I think the priority is to make sure it’s financially feasible for these people to go back to work.”

Respondents also referred to changes in transport services when describing the barriers to their employment, with one respondent saying she had to turn down a job because of difficulties with travel. Overall, JRF found a heightened sense of uncertainty and insecurity among respondents, with confusion about how planned changes, like the removal of the Spare Room Subsidy, would affect them and their families.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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