Gingerbread has recently launched its new campaign ‘Make it work for single parents.
“There are 2 million single parents in the UK, raising 3 million children. More than half (59 per cent) are in work, and most of the rest tell us they want to be.
But barriers like unaffordable and unavailable childcare, needle-in-a-haystack flexible jobs and a lack of proper support and training opportunities are standing in the way of single parents getting, keeping and progressing in jobs that match their skills and meet their families’ needs.
It’s clear something isn’t working here.
We believe everybody has the right to a decent job that lets them provide for their family. That’s why we’re campaigning to get the government and employers to take a set of realistic actions that would make it work for single parents.”
Since becoming a single parent nearly 4 years ago my working life has changed quite dramatically. I was in a well (ish) paid, full time job that gave me a feeling that I had a ‘proper’ job. I was able to tell people proudly what I did, and it was a huge part of my identity.
When I decided to move back to England a year after I became single I left that job behind. When I moved I arrived with no job and into the South East of England where so many things cost a ridiculous amount more than in Northern Ireland.
I got us settled and signed on. It was a big change for me going from full time work and Ben in full time nursery (from 6 months old) to being at home full time with a 2 1/2 year old.
It was at this point I realised my skills didn’t transfer brilliantly to England, I had been doing a lot of work that in Northern Ireland people understood, but here it just didn’t exist in the same way. I had to look at the skills I had rather than the job description and be very open minded when applying for jobs.
When applying for jobs I then had the chicken and egg situation of childcare v’s job hunting. Knowing if I got a job I would need to sort childcare fast. So I was trying to suss out nursery’s at the same time. When I did get a job I then had a panic to try and match up the days I was working to a nursery I was happy with that had spaces those hours and days.
Due to my income I was eligible for help towards childcare costs, anyone who deals with the mystery that is tax credits knows that as good as they are at supporting you, it is NEVER simple. Yes they will pay towards childcare, but most childcare providers need a deposit and a months payment up front. When you have been on benefits, where is this meant to come from?
I was very lucky and was able to borrow it from my parents, but it then means the juggling begins of earning money, paying money back, waiting on various benefits to stop and start and for a month or 3 you really have no idea how much money is coming in or out. Or if you are even any better off working.
That job lasted 9 months as it was a temporary contract, that I was lucky to have extended past the original 6 months. So I was again looking for work.
Part time work, with guaranteed hours that are the same each week is VERY hard to find. I was prepared to go outside of my usual work, but anything that involved shifts, supermarkets, call centres etc meant being available to work lots of different days and hours. I simply cannot do this.
So I started to think outside of the box, at what I could do, and I came up with the idea of being a cleaner. It is not glamorous it is bloody hard work, I still feel fairly embarrassed admitting that is what I do. But it is me out there working, and I am able to organise when and how I work.
I was fully booked within 10 days of starting. 18 Months later I have stayed that way, some clients have changed but I turn down a least one new client a week due to being fully booked.
In June this year (as well I can’t have things too easy!) I started a 2nd business, to run alongside the cleaning. I launched The Geek Fairy, where I do web design and blog make overs. Something I have done as a hobby.
It has meant that I am able to drop a days cleaning a week and so I will need less child care in the holidays, as I am able to do the geek stuff in the evenings.
The Geek Fairy is still new, but doing really well, I am working hard at it, a lot of evenings and weekends are at the computer, but it is brilliant that I can do bits here and there.
I am often asked if I think I will get a ‘proper’ job again, and well never say never, but I can’t see it for a long time.
There are down sides, no holiday pay, no sick pay, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I never really know what my income will be from one week to the next. As a client cam cancel or a job can fall through, so we have weeks of not very much.
But it is all worth it.
Gingerbread has a make it work task list
We know that single parents want the opportunity to take up work that fits alongside their caring responsibilities, gives them enough money to support their children and allows them to progress. Now is the time for government, with employers, to employ a different attitude to single parents and work, and make that happen.
Decisive action in four key areas would transform the working (and the home) lives of hundreds of thousands of Britain’s poorest families, and, at last, make it work for single parents.
The workforce is waiting. We need the government to:
- Make work a guaranteed route out of poverty for single parents
- Get 250,000 more single parents into work by 2020
- Employ a different attitude to work and school hours
- Unlock single parents’ skills and potential