Being a single parent has many challenges, including employment, especially looking for employment while dealing with the everyday struggles that come with looking after a child. But that comes with its own problems.
Childcare should be a right, not a privilege. Parents should be able to go out and provide for their children without having to worry about them being looked after. Yes, they could ask a friend or relative to look after their child while they go to work, but that can take away from the independence that so many young parents crave. In 2017, the UK Government bought in a scheme providing thirty hours’ free childcare for three – four year olds, but either both parents need to be work or the sole parent has to be working. For me, this is something of a catch-22: a single mother needs to be working at least sixteen hours a week to be eligible for the scheme, but she might find it difficult to find a job without having childcare on standby. Just what is she to do?
This isn’t fair. It’s not fair on the single mums who want to provide for their children and be independent. It’s not fair on the children who don’t have a steady childcare routine. It’s not fair on employers who are missing out on so much potential. The government needs to remove the catch-22 and allow single mums to have those thirty hours’ free childcare available if they can prove that they are looking for work – maybe through their local job centre? Maybe if a change like that was bought in, then there would be less unemployed single parents. Anyone would get the impression that the system was designed by people with no understanding of single parenthood at all!
And then there is the other problem: finding a job with flexible working hours. As someone with the major responsibility of looking for a child, a single parent can’t be blamed for wanting to be able to work around the many needs of their child, can they? So why is it so hard to find jobs that pay well and allow flexible working? After all there are different types of flexible working, which including job sharing and working from home. While they aren’t reasonable options for every job role, they would be reasonable options for a lot of job roles and therefore they should be made available to employees who need them, including parents.