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by Louise Wilson
21 April 2021
Charities call for overhaul of employability support to better suit single parents

Credit: Amaro Eno

Charities call for overhaul of employability support to better suit single parents

Employability schemes must be overhauled for parents and carers to benefit from them during the recovery phase from COVID, charities have warned.

A new report from One Parent Families Scotland has urged the next Scottish Government to “significantly accelerate” reform of employability programmes to help tackle children poverty.

Specifically, the report says any model must be flexible and user-centred, allowing parents to access support at a pace and place to suit them which will enable them to balance participation and caring responsibilities.

It also calls for more transparency over who can access the services, warning confusion prevents some people from engaging.

And training opportunities must be tailored to local areas which will help make outcomes more suitable and sustainable, the report concludes.

Nazima, a single mum from Edinburgh who took part in the research, revealed she had had to stop working in a pharmacy and take up a job as a school dinner lady as the hours better suited her when she became a parent.

She said: “I’d look after my kids first rather than do something I really want because of the childcare. When you have a young child in nursery, what options do you have to do a nine to five job other than to put your child into a private nursery, and then you have to pay the fees even when you’re not using it or you’ll lose the place?” 

One Parent Families Scotland has said child poverty will not be tackled without proper consideration of the needs of single parents, the majority of whom are women.

Chief executive Satwat Rehman said the barriers many women already face are compounded by single parents being the sole breadwinners.

She said: “Recognition of these barriers and the intersecting inequalities which keep them in place should be at the heart of any effective employability strategy, but our research suggests we must do more to meet the particular needs of single parents, carers and women more generally.”

The report says Scotland should move away from the UK’s “work first” approach to employability programmes, which it warns has “fed the proliferation of low-paid work”. 

Meanwhile, Oxfam – who supported the research – called for an “urgent step-change” in how parents and carers are valued.

Head of Oxfam Scotland Jamie Livingstone said: “The next Scottish Government should make a generation-defining commitment to carers by creating a new national outcome on care to place carers and the people they look after at the heart of national policy and spending decisions.

“This would be an important step towards repaying the debt of gratitude the nation’s carers are owed.

“As this report shows, improving the support available to those with caring responsibilities who choose to find paid work will be a critical element. While the trajectory of employability support in Scotland is positive, the speed of change must significantly quicken.” 

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