Remove barriers to work
Work protects families against poverty. We know that the overwhelming majority of unemployed people want to work, yet many encounter barriers which are difficult to overcome.
- Costs. Working carries costs such as travel and appropriate cloting but we know that it is the cost of childcare that is most prohibitive for many parents. While the government is committed to improving childcare provision, it remains expensive and difficult to access, particularly in disadvantaged areas. A strategy that moves towards universal childcare free at the point of delivery is crucial if this barrier is to be dismantled.
- Discrimination. Prejudice prevents many from accessing and advancing in jobs. For example, people with disabilities are less likely to be in employment, and are more likely to be in lower paid jobs than non-disabled people with the same skills. Lone parents are doubly disadvantaged by the gender pay gap (most are women) and the fact that they may seem less attractive to employers because of their caring responsibilities. Employers require support to recruit a wider range of employees, and to root out discrimination.
- Inflexibility. Working environments need to be flexible enough to accommodate the other demands that parents have in their lives. A great deal of movement in and out of employment reflects the failure of employers to facilitate and support a work-life balance. The right to request flexible working has been successful to date, and could be extended and accelerated to enable more parents to combine work and their caring responsibilities successfully.
- Low skills base. Lack of skills and training often restrict the types of work that job seekers can find, and this is an especially acute problem for those who may have been out of work for some time. While a more equitable education system is necessary to address this in the long term, there is a current need for a programme of adult skills training that is coherent and demand-led.
While current government policy pays some attention to these barriers, its overwhelming focus on the personal responsibility of claimants to find work runs counter to this analysis.
Past interventions have shown that all these barriers to work can be reduced through policy action. At CPAG we see it as crucial to build on previous good practice if parents are to access sustainable and adequately paid work and lift their children out of poverty.